This spin on the classic American Southern recipe for red beans and rice incorporates two key ingredients to give it a Jamaican edge … Scotch bonnet pepper and allspice. I was inspired to cook with okra more often after watching countless African home chefs on YouTube, so this recipe seemed okra-appropriate. Many thanks to Ghanian chef StellaZone for the inspiration. Also classic to American Southern cooking is the use of a ham hock to provide a smoked, porky base flavor. If you’re vegan, feel free to leave it out and use a bit of liquid smoke instead. A smoked turkey wing works jut fine also. Scotch bonnet peppers are notoriously hot, so if you are not in the mood for something really spicy you can leave it whole and experience its clean, citrus-like flavor to a lesser degree. If you like spicy food, then feel free to burst it open to release it’s heat.
This recipe is really quite easy. It basically involves throwing ingredients into a pot and simmering while you do some house chores. Most recipes for red beans and rice involve cooking them together in one pot. But I admit, I cheated. What I’ve done here is simply cook the red beans and okra separately and pour it over some pre-prepared rice. And if you’re not in the mood for rice, just eat it by the spoonful from a bowl by itself. The amount of okra used is definitely a personal choice, so feel free to make adjustments to your liking.
• 1 smoked ham hock
• 1 1/2 cups of dry red beans
• 1 medium red onion, diced
• 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 bunch of culantro
• 1 scotch bonnet pepper
• 1 8-ounce can of plain tomato sauce, or make it fresh with my recipe
• 1 tablespoon of black pepper
• 1 tablespoon of allspice
• 1 tablespoon of cumin
• 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
• 1 tablespoon of kosher salt
• 3 cups okra, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1. In a small pot, submerge the ham hock in water and bring to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes to cleanse it from all the saltiness.
2. Transfer the ham hock to a large pot and fill it with cups of water.
3. To the large pot, add the red onion, garlic, bay leaf, culantro, scotch bonnet pepper, tomato sauce, black pepper, cumin allspice, smoked paprika, and kosher salt. Bring to a brief boil, then reduce heat to a gentle low boil.
4. Continue cooking on a low boil for an hour, add the beans. Continue and stirring occasionally for another 2 hours. By that time the ham hock will have been cooked for a total of 3 hours and the meat should be falling off the bone. If not, cook it longer.
5. Add the okra and cook on a low boil for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionaly.
6. Serve over rice or in a bowl as a stew.
Yield: approximately 6 servings