Pelau (pronounced pay-lao) is one of the traditional dishes of  my homeland, Trinidad & Tobago. It’s a very easy to make one pot meal…our version of pilaf or paella.   It’s a staple of many a get together or lime as we call them.  Everyone has their own twist on the popular dish but my preference is for the  deliciously simple combination of rice, chicken and pigeon peas.

I can pretty much make pelau in my sleep.  It’s a wonderful Saturday afternoon dish which can refrigerate well and provide lunch for the whole week.   I actually think it tastes better after a few days.

Here’s a recipe from one of my favourite cookbooks – The Naparima Girls’ High School Cookbook.  This cookbook, which features the multi-cultural cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean,  is a must have for every Trinbagonian cook!

What to use

3 lbs chicken pieces, skinned

1tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 tbsp mixed green seasoning

2 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp ketchup

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 – 3 tbsp brown sugar

2 cups parboiled rice

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2  cup chopped sweet or pimento peppers

1 1/2 cups cooked pigeon peas

1 tbsp salt

1 whole hot pepper with stem (Scotch Bonnet)

2 cups coconut milk

2 cups chicken broth or water

What to do

Season chicken with salt, pepper, green seasoning, minced garlic, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and ketchup.  Heat oil in a large heavy iron pot or skillet.  Add sugar and allow to burn until brown.  Add seasoned chicken and stir until pieces are well coated with burnt sugar; brown for 5 minutes.  Add rice and turn often until well mixed.  Cook for 3 minutes more.  Add onion, sweet peppers and peas and cook for a few minutes, stirring a few times.  Add salt, hot pepper, coconut milk and broth.  Bring to the boil, lower heat, cover and simmer until rice is cooked and all liquid is evaporated (about 20 to 30 minutes).  Add more liquid if rice is still hard and continue to cook for a few minutes.

My adjustments

I used whole grain brown rice instead of parboiled white rice to up the fiber content.  I also added chopped carrots for some colour.

Pelau is traditionally served with a side of coleslaw but unfortunately I had no cabbage!  Next time for sure!


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