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Pigeon Pea and Dumpling Soup

(Bahamian Pea Soup n' Dough Boy)

Rose, at a small bookshop in Churchill Square, downtown Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, took me in hand to teach me this extraordinary soup, her favorite in the world. It's beautiful...and totally filling as a delicious one-pot meal--the confetti of tomato, pepper, and meat bits in a rich coconutty broth thick with delicate pigeon peas, skins bursting--and really grand coconut dumplings. If you're not a fan of coconut, it's perfectly traditional to forego it, just increase the water by a cup or so...and use regular milk or water for the dumplings. Serve hot, with hot chili sauce on the side, to 6 as a meal.


THE DUMPLINGS (about 24)

Place ham hocks and other meats in a Dutch oven with the pigeon peas and cold water. Bring to a slow boil, partially cover, and cook for 2 hours. Strain the broth, cutting the meat into bite size pieces (discarding the bones) and returning both the broth and meat to the pan. Add the onions, tomatoes, green pepper, celery, tomato paste, and thyme and simmer for another 30 minutes. Pour in the coconut milk, salt and pepper to taste, and let simmer while you're making the dumplings.

Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together, then stir in the coconut milk until a dough forms. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls into the simmering soup. Let cook for 10 minutes, then cover and cook another 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, take the pot to the table and ladle into generous bowls, 4 dumplings apiece. And pass the hot sauce for people to use according to taste. Tabasco or habanero is fine, but if you're lucky you'll find Bahamian hot goat pepper sauce...and if you're luckier yet, you'll get your hands on the homemade lime-hot chili brew in old rum bottles I found at the Freeport farmer's market off West Atlantic Drive...and that had all the security folks through customs rolling their eyes appreciatively.