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Jamaican Ital Stew
A Healthier Meal Alternative

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Jamaican Ital Stew | (Photo Credit: Chef Ricardo - Youtube)Jamaican Ital Stew | (Photo Credit: Chef Ricardo - Youtube)

by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer

Jamaica has gotten many things from our Rastafarian heritage that has been adapted into the lifestyle of many non-Rastafarians or what Jamaicans call "ball head".

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What Is Ital Cooking?

We can credit Rastafarians for creating some of the tastiest ital dishes. An ital dish is any dish made without meat, fish or poultry. Most ital dishes consist of a wide range of leafy vegetables, beans and starchy foods. 

One of the most popular ital dishes is the Sip. Sip is a soup made without any form of meat. It is usually made with raw peanuts, kidney beans, hungover peas and a wide array of other foods like corn, dasheen, yam, and even green bananas. The use of processed seasonings is usually avoided as well, even salt. Ital dishes rely heavily on natural spices and seasonings.

Another popular dish and I must add that this one is my favourite, is the ital stew. It is filling, thick and creamy. Not to mention its high nutritional content as it is packed with many vegetables. When I am having this, I just eat it as is, but many people serve the ital stew with some plain white rice or boiled foods like corn, yam and dumpling.

What Is Ital Stew Made Of?

One of the best things about ital stew and most if not all ital dishes is that they are prepared with one hundred per cent natural ingredients. There is no need to add oil or butter at all, you won't even need to add salt, powdered seasonings or spices.  All you need is to make a trip to the market to stock up on the ingredients you may need. 

Speaking of ingredients, besides the base ingredients, you can pretty much add any vegetables you like to your ital stew. It is not a quick dish to make, as a matter of fact, depending on how much you are making, it may take hours, so be patient. 

Here's what you will need

Jamaican Ital Stew

INGREDIENTS

  • Beans - you can use one or a mixture of beans including red kidney beans, ginger peas or broad beans
  • Fresh leafy vegetables - cabbage, pak choy, and callaloo are great options. 
  • Starchy foods of your choice - Irish potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato
  • Herbs and seasonings - escallion and thyme, garlic, pimento seeds, onion, ginger, scotch bonnet pepper, sweet peppers 
  • Coconut milk

PROCEDURE

  1. The first step is to wash your peas and set them to soak in water overnight. This will allow them to absorb soften which will reduce the cooking time in the morning.

  2. The next step is to prepare your pumpkin. Wash and remove the seeds and some of the skin from the pumpkin. You need to then chop the pumpkin into medium-sized pieces. Once that is done, add your pumpkin and beans to a pot and cover slightly with water and leave to cook. 

  3. The cooking time of your beans may vary depending on the type and quality. So expect a cooking time of between 45 minutes and an hour and 30 minutes. During that time, start prepping your starchy vegetables. Wash and peel each and cut into small pieces. 

  4. Once your beans and pumpkin are fully cooked and soft, add your starchy vegetables. Don't worry about the thickness of your stew as yet. The starchy vegetables once fully cooked, will add thickness to the stew. 

  5. As your starchy root vegetables cook, use this time to prepare your leafy vegetables. Remove any withered or dead leaves, strip your callaloo (if you do not know how to strip callaloo, just buy fresh chopped callaloo) and wash all vegetables under fresh running water. Then, leave it to sit in a large bowl of salted water for around 5 minutes. The next step is to simply chop all your vegetables into pieces. 

  6. Once your starchy foods have been fully cooked, add your coconut milk. You can choose to use coconut milk from a can, the powdered version, or blend your own from dried coconut. Whichever you choose, add it to the pot, and allow it to boil for about ten minutes.

  7. At this time, the liquid should already be reduced to a thick stew, add all your seasonings to the pot. Do not cut your scotch bonnet pepper, add it whole. 

  8. The last thing to be added will be your vegetables. This is because leafy vegetables are quite easy to cook and overcooking them might diminish any nutritional value they have. Add them to the pot and give it a good stir. Cook for an additional 7 to 15 minutes or until soft.

Serve your Jamaican ital stew with a side of rice and fried ripe plantains.

If you are a Rastafarian, vegan, or just a regular person looking for healthier ways to enjoy a comforting meal, then this Jamaican Ital Stew is perfect for you.

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References & Sources For Jamaican Ital Stew

  1. An Overview of Jamaican Ital Food, https://jamaicans.com/ital_food/
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