Happy Meat-Free Monday, Everyone! I’m back in the U.S. after a week-long vacation in balmy Montego Bay, Jamaica. As I perused a gift shop searching for trinkets and souvenirs, I discovered the book Vegetarian Cooking Jamaican Style by chef Ayesha Williams. Always excited to add to my burgeoning cookbook collection, I bought it. Inspired by the exotic ingredients, I whipped up Williams’ recipe for “Irie Pepper Pot Soup.”
This spicy soup calls for callaloo, a Caribbean vegetable akin to spinach (absolutely delish!), and Scotch bonnet pepper, an insanely hot Caribbean chili pepper. Unfortunately, my grocery stores stock neither ingredient. Instead, I improvised and used spinach and habanero pepper. It’s an intriguing dish with complex flavors: the heat from the habanero, the freshness from the spinach, the creaminess from the coconut milk and the spicy warmth from the Jamaican allspice. It looks a bit like “lawn in a bowl,” but don’t be fooled. It’s hearty and delish; perfect for those upcoming cool nights.
Jamaican Pepper Pot Soup
4 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups spinach (or callaloo), fresh & roughly chopped
2 cups spinach (or callaloo), boiled & pureed
1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped
1 cup white onion, diced
1 cup scallions, chopped
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons Jamaican allspice
1 habenero chili pepper, cut in half with seeds removed
2-3 tablespoons Earth Balance soy butter
Salt & pepper to taste
Cook 2 cups of spinach by boiling. When done, then puree in blender and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat butter and saute onions, carrots and scallions for approximately 3 minutes. While these are cooking, in a large pot, heat vegetable broth. Add onions, carrots, scallions and butter to broth in pot. Mix well. Boil for 3 minutes on high heat.
Add allspice, habenero and fresh chopped spinach. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.
Remove habenero halves. Add pureed spinach and coconut milk. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.