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Strong Back Stew

Ghetto Gastro

We’re obviously big fans of plantain. Its nutritional value and versatility make it one of our favorite ingredients. The bodegas always have plantains on deck. Pierre’s Bajan grandmother called her version of this dish “strong man soup.” She made it with cassava, pumpkin, and other ground provisions and served it to her kids every Wednesday. It was filling enough to satisfy them all day, and Pierre’s father, Andrew, says her rendition would make them feel invincible. This lentil stew marries Latin American and Caribbean influences.

1. Make the stew: In a large stockpot, heat 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the scallion whites, bell pepper, shallots, ginger, celery, and garlic. Cook until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the cloves, turmeric, and paprika and allow the spices to bloom for 2 minutes.

2. Add the stock, coconut milk, split peas, Scotch bonnet, thyme, sage, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until the peas are tender, about 2 hours.

3. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Using a ladle, transfer half the soup to a blender, then purée. Pour the blended soup back into the pot and stir to combine. This step gives the soup a texture that’s not too chunky and not too smooth.

4. In a medium saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons coconut oil over medium heat. Add the sweet plantains and cook until they’re just caramelized brown, about 5 minutes. Here we aren’t frying them to doneness; we’re adding another layer of flavor before transferring them to the soup. Using a slotted spoon, lift the fried plantains out of the pan so the oil drains off, add them to the soup pot, and stir.

5. Make the dumplings: In a medium bowl, mix the plantain flour, baking powder, white pepper, salt, and chives. Pour in the coconut milk and melted butter and use a fork to incorporate the ingredients. Once the dough starts to come together, you can use your hands to form it into a sticky ball.

6. Leave the dough ball in the bowl and cover with a clean, dry dish towel. Set aside to rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes. The dough won’t change in size, but you do want to give the ingredients a few minutes to bond. Using a bench scraper (dough scraper), cut the ball in half, then cut each half in half. Keep doing this until you have 32 (1-inch/3-centimeter) dumplings. (This is more or less a guide; don’t stress on an exact count. You just want them to cook uniformly and look appetizing.)

7. Add the carrots and dumplings to the pot. Simmer for 1 hour, or until the dumplings are fully cooked and a bit on the fluffy side. You want these to be really bathing in the stew, soaking up all that goodness.

8. Taste the soup and add salt to your preference. When ready to serve, garnish with SOIL and lemongrass oil, if you like.

Excerpted from Ghetto Gastro Presents Black Power Kitchen by Jon Gray, Pierre Serrao, and Lester Walker, with Osayi Endolyn (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2022. Photography copyright © 2022 by Nayquan Shuler.