Valley Forge Jamaican Pepperpot Soup
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound sirloin steak, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (may substitute 1 15 oz can of red beans if going the vegetarian route)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 small white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced Scotch bonnet chile pepper (see Tip), or to taste (may substitute a less hot pepper or even use red pepper flakes as a substitute)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
4 cups water (or veggie stock if going veggie)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 pound sweet potato (about 1 large), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cups chopped callaloo (see Note), collard greens or spinach
3 scallions, sliced
1 14-ounce can “lite” coconut milk, well shaken (optional)
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add steak and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink on the outside, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Omit this step if going vegetarian obviously.
Add onion, garlic, chile pepper and thyme to the pot and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk water (or stock) and cornstarch in a bowl or large measuring cup; add to the pot along with the sweet potato and red beans. Bring to a boil over high heat; boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are almost tender. Stir in callaloo (or collards or spinach) and the remaining 1 tsp salt; cook until tender, 2 to 3 min more. Add scallions and the steak (if using). Cook until the steak is hot and just cooked through. Remove from the heat and stir in coconut milk (this step is optional).
Tip: One of the hottest chile peppers, Scotch bonnets come in vivid shades of red, orange and green and are used throughout the Caribbean. Though they look similar to habaneros, Scotch bonnets have a citrus note that makes them undeniably different. You can control the heat of a dish a little by discarding the membranes that hold the seeds, which are the spiciest part of chile peppers, along with the seeds themselves. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling hot peppers or wear rubber gloves.
**In the U.S., callaloo is the main cooking green in Jamaica. Some farmers consider it to be simply a weed, but if you’re lucky to find it at your farmers’ market or a Caribbean market, snap it up! It has a texture somewhere between that of collard greens and spinach, both of which are fine substitutes. Enjoy!