Stew Peas with Spinners

Stew peas with spinners and fried plantains

Stew peas is a Jamaican stew prepared using coconut milk, beans and salted meat. It is a common and popular dish in Jamaica.

Apparently in Jamaica the word “beans” is used only for baked beans, broad beans or butter beans. All other beans are known as “peas”. This dish uses red kidney beans. I imagine this dish probably has a much longer history, but the earliest reported recipes for stew peas date to the 1940’s.

People tend to think of Jamaican cuisine as being spicy hot, with lots of habanero or scotch bonnet peppers. However I have noticed that a lot of recipes from actual Jamaicans tend to throw the whole pepper in and then fish it out at the end of cooking, treating it more like a bay leaf. I’ve done that here and the dish is very mild. You could, of course, chop up the pepper and leave it in if you like spicy foods.

The real oddball ingredient this week is salted pork tails, which I ordered from Sam’s Caribbean* . As a cured product it is shelf stable, so shipping doesn’t require dry ice, and is therefore fairly reasonably priced. This is the traditional meat in this dish, often combined with beef or other meats as well. You could also easily make it vegetarian by omitting the meat and adding sweet potato, pumpkin, or other vegetables.

The pork tails are quite salty, so we first soak them overnight, and then boil them to remove some of the excess salt. All the recipes I looked appeared to just be chopping them into large chunks and throwing them in bones and all, but when I make this again I think I will take the time to separate the meat from the bones before I add it to the beans. As you can imagine, a tail is made up of lots of little bones, and trying to eat it that way gets messy, not to mention the frequent biting into small pieces of bone that have separated themselves from the meat and are loose in the stew. I think it will also help balance the salt levels to have smaller pieces of meat mixed in with the beans instead of bigger chunks you’re eating separately.

Edit 11/24/2020: I made this dish again, separating the tail meat from the bones. I was correct about that balancing the salt levels of the dish. However they need to cook for longer than the 30 minutes to easily separate the meat from the bones. In the future I would probably throw the par cooked tails into the stew whole and pull them out to separate the meat when I add the spinners.

Spinners are Jamaican dumplings. A simple flour, salt, water dough is made and then rolled into short snakes by “spinning” balls of it between your hands. I recommend making them a little smaller then the ones I made, as mine were still a little undercooked after 20 minutes.

Stew Peas with Spinners

Prep: 45 minutes
Cook: 2:30
Total: 2:45

2 lb. salted pork tails
2 ⅔ C kidney beans
2 to 3 14-oz cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 ¼ lb. beef stew meat, in bite sized pieces
10 allspice berries
8 cups water (divided)

1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 scallions, chopped 
4 sprigs thyme
1 scotch bonnet pepper (whole)
½ green bell pepper, diced
¾ oz. fresh ginger, grated
1 ½ 14-ozcans coconut milk
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 ¾ cup flour 
½ teaspoon salt 
⅓ cup water plus more as needed

Red bell pepper
6 Tablespoons Canola Oil, to sautee vegetables
½ lb. salt beef
4 C broth, in place of equal ammount of water

Cover pigs tails in cold water and soak over night to remove some of the salt. Separately, soak beans overnight. 

Drain beans, place in a heavy pot along with beef, allspice berries and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, until beans are tender. Meanwhile, drain pork, cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. Boil for 30 minutes. Drain and add tails to the beans.  (If using canned beans, simmer until meat is cooked)

When beans are tender, add remaining 2 cups of water, onion, garlic, scallions, thyme, peppers, ginger, coconut milk, salt and pepper. Simmer for another 30 minutes.

For spinners, whisk together flour and salt. Start with about ⅓ cup of water, then add more a Tablespoon or so at a time, mixing until a stiff dough forms. Break off small pieces and roll into balls, then into short snakes, tapering the ends.

Remove pork tails from stew and set aside to cool slightly. Add spinners to stew and simmer for another 15-20 minutes until spinners are cooked. Meanwhile pick meat of the tail bones, cut into bite size pieces, and add it to the pot.

Remove thyme and scotch bonnet and taste for seasoning. Serve with white rice and fried plantains. 

*I receive no compensation for mentioning this product.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Carol says:

    Delicious recipe, Lorin, pigs tails are sold here everywhere alongside the rest of the pig..nose to tail eating here… 🙂


    1. Lorin Black says:

      I sure wish nose-to-tail eating were the norm here. It would make finding some of those ingredients a lot easier!


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