Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

January 24, 2022
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Jamaican red-pea soup with spinners

It’s a culinary jump from Jamaica to Martha’s Vineyard, but this soup and other Caribbean dishes increasingly turn up here. They appear on summer tables when travellers return from a visit to Jamaica or when “African American” takes on its larger definition and someone in the family has Jamaican origins.

But they show up year-round on the tables of Jamaicans who make the island their full-time home. Many of them arrived as migrant workers and then stayed on and took other jobs around the island.

This soup is a wonderful one-pot meal for a cool night’s dinner after a long day at the beach and can even be left simmering in pot during a post-beach nap. The spinners are dumplings, while red pea is a Jamaican term for the kidney bean.

2 c. (500 ml) dried kidney beans

8 c. (2 L) water

½ c. (125 ml) green onions, finely chopped, including 2 inches (5 cm) of green tops

2 sprigs, fresh, flat-leaf parsley, minced

2 sprigs, fresh thyme, leaves stripped and minced

¼ c. (60 ml) celery, minced

2 tbsp. (30 ml) garlic, minced

2 c. (500 ml) cooked chicken, minced

2 chicken bouillon cubes

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

spinners, optional (recipe follows)

3 tbsp. (45 ml) minced Vidalia or other sweet onion

Pick over the beans and then soak them in cold water to cover overnight. The next day, drain the beans, place in a stockpot and add the water, green onions, parsley, thyme, celery, garlic, chicken and bouillon cubes. Season lightly with salt and pepper, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour or until the beans are tender.

Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning. Add the spinners, if using, and continue to simmer for 5 minutes or until the dumplings are cooked through. Ladle into bowls, garnish with the Vidalia onion and serve. Serves 4 to 6.


½ c. (125 ml) flour

1 tsp. (5 ml) salt

5 tbsp. (75 ml) water

Combine all of the ingredients together in a bowl and stir until you have a stiff, smooth dough. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough so it’s a ¼-inch (6-mm) thick and cut into 12 equal pieces. Roll the pieces into cylinders, drop them into the simmering soup and cook as directed.

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