Pigeon peas, saffron and artichoke hearts. W/ jerk-spiced roti

pigeon peas and roti

When I was in college, I used to meet my brother (and best friend) every Thursday night at the Jamaican Delight restaurant. We’d both spent some time away…he’d been in Italy and Minnesota, I’d been at Oxford. We’d both had some rough times, and now we were back in the city across from our home town. It had always seemed like a last resort, but now…it seemed magical! It smelled sweet (turns out there’s a candy factory there!), the people were wonderful, we both had remarkable mentorish teachers, the possibilities were dizzying. So we’d meet every Thursday night, and talk about everything that was important to us, then, in our early twenties…when everything is important. We’d go across the street to Spirit Mart, buy one beer each, and order the same thing every time…vegetarian delight, vegetable roti, plantains (if they had them) and grape nut ice cream.

The other day I bought some plantains, because I remembered loving them, and I thought my boys might like them, too. Then, of course, I had to try to make some roti. And somehow pigeon peas fit into this picture. So I asked my husband what would be nice with pigeon peas. He consulted his inner culinary genius and said, how about saffron and artichoke hearts. Wellawella! What a good idea that turned out to be! So I made a spicy, brothy mix of pigeon peas and art hearts. Some basmati rice. Some fried plantains. And I made some roti, but not the kind you can wrap around vegetables, like we used to have at the old Jamaican Delight. Since I had the oil all heated up for the plantains, I decided to drop the roti in there. Oh, yum! And I had flavored the dough very subtly with jerk seasonings, viz: thyme, allspice and cayenne. Okay, that’s my version of jerk seasonings. Nice though! It was a really fun meal to eat, with lots of little parts that added up to taste well together.

Here’s The Jerk, by the Clarendonians.


1 can (15 oz) pigeon peas
1 small shallot – minced
1 or 2 cloves garlic – finely minced
2 T olive oil
1 t. basil
pinch saffron
cayenne to taste
1/2 cup artichoke hearts, chopped
dram of balsamic
salt & plenty of pepper
T butter (optional)

Put a pinch of saffron in a small bowl. Cover with very hot water, and let sit while you prepare everything else.

Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallot, cook till slightly brown, add the garlic and the basil. Cook a bit. Add the pigeon peas, art hearts, and cayenne. Add the saffron and it’s soaking water. Cook for a minute or two, and then add water to cover, plus about 1/2 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer. Add some salt. When the water is reduced so that it’s still a bit brothy, add a bit of balsamic and lots of pepper. You can add a tablespoon of butter, too, unless you want it vegan.

Serve over basmati rice.


1 1/2 cups flour
1 t thyme
pinch allspice
pinch cayenne
1 t salt
ground black pepper
1/2 t. baking powder
3 T olive oil

Mix the flour and all the other dry stuff. Add the olive oil and rub it in with your fingers until every last single smidgen of flour is coated in oil. Well…it should feel like that play sand they came up with a few years back that felt slightly wet – it seemed like a good idea….

Add enough water to form a kneadable dough. (start with 1/2 cup and work your way up)

Knead the dough for about 5 minutes till it’s quite smooth.

Cover with a damp cloth and set aside for 1/2 an hour to several hours. Whatever’s convenient!

Break the dough into golf ball-sized pieces. Knead it for a moment, and then roll it till it’s quite thin…maybe 1/8 inch.

Warm some olive oil in a wok or some other type of frying pan. About 1/2 inch deep, maybe? Drop the roti in. Cook on one side till it’s puffed and brown. Flip it over and cook till the other side is brown. Put it on a baking tray in a low oven to keep warm till you’re ready to eat.

These are good the next day, too!


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