Waterfalls Magazine – (Jehan Powell recipe) – Guyanese Pepperpot is a must have at Christmas in every Guyanese household. This hearty and aromatic stew has been an integral part of Guyanese cuisine, representing the diverse influences and traditions that shape the country’s gastronomy. As the national dish of Guyana, Guyanese Pepperpot embodies the techniques from Indigenous Amerindians who use cassareep as a way of preserving meat.
What is cassareep and how is it made?
Cassareep is made from cassava root, a staple crop in Guyanese cuisine. The process starts by peeling and grating fresh bitter cassava roots, which are then placed in a matapi. The grated cassava is squeezed to extract the liquid, which separates into two layers: a clear liquid on top and a thick layer of starch at the bottom. The clear liquid is carefully poured off and set aside for other uses. The cassava juice is then cooked in a pot over medium heat, continuously stirred to prevent sticking and scorching.
Through a slow and gradual reduction process, the liquid transforms into a thick and dark syrup known as cassareep. This cooking process not only thickens the liquid but also removes any toxins present in raw cassava, making cassareep safe for consumption. The resulting cassareep imparts a distinct flavour and colour to dishes like Guyanese Pepperpot, adding depth and richness to the cuisine.
Essential Ingredients of this traditional Guyanese dish
To create the distinct flavours of Guyanese Pepperpot, several key ingredients are required. The foundation of this savory stew includes meat, such as beef, pork, lamb, cow foot (better known as cow heel in Guyana) or face, or even wild game meat such as labba. The star ingredient, cassareep—a thick, molasses-like syrup derived from cassava juice—offers a slightly sweet and unique flavour. The spice blend, featuring cinnamon, cloves, thyme, orange peel and wiri wiri peppers, adds a delightful kick that complements the rich flavours.
Slow Cooking for Maximum Flavour
The preparation of Guyanese Pepperpot requires time and patience. It is often slow-cooked in a large pot or Dutch oven, allowing the flavours to meld together beautifully. This slow simmering process tenderizes the meat, intensifies the flavours, and gives rise to the irresistible aroma that fills the kitchen. The result is a hearty and robust stew that is sure to tantalize the taste buds. This is typically made a day or two ahead to when it’s intended to be served as the flavour deepens, the longer it sits.
What to serve with this dish?
Guyanese Pepperpot is traditionally served on special occasions and holidays, such as Christmas and New Year’s Day. Traditionally, it is eaten with cassava bread but at holidays, it is essentially served with homemade bread. The deep, rich flavours of the stew and the tender meat accompanied with hearty homemade bread creates an exceptional dish. The sticky sauce clings to the bread which is typically soft, but firm enough to withstand the warm gravy. On less formal occasions, it is enjoyed with rice or even roti.
How to store Pepperpot?
What’s unique about this dish is that it requires no refrigeration. Because it uses cassareep, it preserves the meat. Simply bring to a boil daily, simmer for just a few minutes and this stew lasts for more than a week. Additionally, as needed, more meat can be added to the broth as well. Just ensure that it is thoroughly cooked.
Whether enjoyed during festive occasions or as a comforting meal on a chilly day, Guyanese Pepperpot never fails to satisfy and delight. So, grab a bowl of this flavorful dish, immerse yourself in the cultural journey it represents, and experience the taste of Guyana firsthand.
* Trim excess fat off meat and soak in vinegar for about 15 to 30 minutes. Puree garlic, onion and thyme. Marinate fresh meat with marinade and 1/3 cup of cassareep.
* Meanwhile, in a pressure cooker, place pickled pork and salted beef and pressure for a 20 minutes or until tender. Discard the water and set meat aside.
* Wash cow foot thoroughly by soaked in vinegar for about half an hour. Rinse. Place in pressure cooker and pressure for 20 minutes or until tender. Discard water. *If the cow heel isn’t soft after 20 minutes, continue to pressure in 5-minute intervals, checking for tenderness.
* In a stock pot, cook beef and pork in marinade until all liquid evaporates. Add the cow foot, pickled pork, salted beef, sugar and remaining cassereep with a stick of cinnamon, cloves, orange peel and enough water to cover. If the stew is brown, add more cassareep to attain a deep, dark colour.
* Cook slowly until tender. Add pepper and salt to taste. This meal tastes better the next day, so it is best when made a day ahead. To serve this meal, warm and serve with bread.
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