Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Levi Roots Cookery Course-More On The Man, His Faith And Its Link To The Beautiful City Of Bath And Of Course, Delicious Caribbean Food...

I am delighted that people have enjoyed my post about the wonderful cookery day with the charming Levi Roots. As promised, here is a little more about my visit to Bath and, of course, some more recipes...

Bath is a wonderful place to visit-especially arriving in the early morning peace and quiet before all the hordes of tourists flock in...

And on the day I visited, there was an added buzz in the air as The University was about to hold a Graduation Ceremony and gradually more and more people in gowns started to appear...

For those people who have never visited Bath, I would earnestly recommend a visit.
Not only is it full of gorgeous Georgian architecture but there are some hidden gems down the little streets and alleyways...
If you look upwards you can spy glimpses back to bygone days now mixed with the modern...

I was intrigued with one wall,

As I paused to ponder, a passing older lady stopped as well and remarked that she was so grateful to the old hospital who she felt had saved the life of her husband many years ago.

 She then went on to say that the hospital had a very interesting history...
It was established in 1738 as The Mineral Water Hospital and is still known locally as The Min. Using the Spa water for which Bath is of course famous for, it has treated patients throughout the centuries. Well known for treating rheumatic disorders, skin problems etc., I was however intrigued to learn that the Hospital and its Spa waters were particularly well known in past times for curing a type of paralysis known as Devonshire Colic or West Indian Dry Gripes. This disorder which was prevalent in the 17th and 18th century, seemed to affect mostly farm workers and was actually caused by lead poisoning. Many farm workers at that time were paid in part by pints of Cider for which the West Country was and still is famous for. Unfortunately the cider presses at that time, used lead lined chutes and this resulted in the cider being heavily contaminated with lead. This was actually positively encouraged as the reaction of the lead with the acetic acid of the fermenting apple juice gave a sweeter taste to the cider-in fact some cider makers even hung a lead ball in the vat to increase this effect! Unfortunately it was not realised that people could then suffer from lead poisoning and the resulting paralysis. Poor farm workers were treated at the Hospital as charity cases and after prolonged immersion in the water did seem to miraculously recover...it is now known that long immersions in water be it spa or ordinary water does speed up the body’s ability to excrete lead...

Luckily for today’s cider drinkers, the cider making process is now lead free!!

I was very grateful to that passing lady for taking the time to give a stranger a quick history lesson!

But back to Levi Roots.

To start with Levi himself, he is, by his own account a very intuitive cook. Very keen to expand people’s awareness about Caribbean cooking but at the same time make it accessible using ingredients that can be obtained in the UK. I was interested to hear that for a time his Reggae, Reggae Sauce had been produced very near to me in Newport, South Wales. It has since been relocated to production in the north of England and his ready meals are now made in Poland. The Readymade meals produced in distinctive Rasta packaging are now found in a well known British supermarket which has exclusive rights for the first six months for each of his new products. Levi, described how difficult it had been initially to get ‘the men in suits’ to agree to the distinctive Rasta colouring of the packaging and how proud he is now when he walks in to one of their stores and sees his products in all their colourful glory on the shelves.

We asked him to tell us more about the Rastafari way of life and I was intrigued to hear that regarding food, many are vegetarians and some are vegans. Other will eat some fish and meat at certain times only.
For more information about the Rasta way of life see

Levi also told us that the City of Bath is very important to those that follow the Rastafari way and many will make a pilgrimage and visit as the most famous person for their faith; Haile Selassie spent his exile years (1936–1941) in Bath at Fairfield House, which he bought.

And now to the recipes –again taken from Levi’s wonderful course at the Bertinet Cookery School...

Rice and Peas

Rice and Peas is one of the most traditional and well known dishes of Jamaica. However it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I realised that the ‘peas’ mentioned in the title are not actual peas but instead are red kidney beans.

Levi is very much an advocate of using dried beans and not to use canned beans which could contain preservatives and other additives.  

This of course means a bit of forward planning...

175g dried red kidney beans
1 whole coconut
3-4 tsp salt
Knob of butter
1 whole scotch bonnet chilli
1 spring onion-chopped
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 garlic clove
1 tsp all-purpose seasoning
500g basmati rice

The beans need to be rinsed in cold water and then put in to a large bowl and covered with 1 litre of cold water and left to soak overnight.

Next day, drain the beans, but the important thing that Levi emphasized is to not to throw away the soaking water as that will aid the wonderful red colour of the finished dish.

Rinse the beans under cold running water and throw away any damaged ones.

Bring the retained soaking water to the boil and add the beans. Bring back to the boil, cover and boil vigorously for 10 minutes to get rid of the potential poisonous toxins found in red kidney beans. Then reduce the heat and simmer for a further 35 minutes until the beans are really soft-to test give them a gentle squeeze.

The coconut milk will also need to be prepared beforehand.

To make the coconut milk, piece that one hole on the top with a sharp knife which gives way easily and drain and save the liquid.

Once empty, hold the coconut with the holes uppermost and crack smartly on a stone step-I was so pleased I wasn’t going to be resorting to a machete! The coconut will crack easily around the midline.

With a sharp knife carefully run it around between the shell and the white inner flesh. After a couple of circuits you should feel the coconut flesh loosen and fall out in one piece. Repeat on the other half.

Grate the white flesh-at home when I repeated this dish-I used my food processor rather than to do it rather laboriously by hand.

Place the grated coconut in a large bowl and pour over 1 litre of boiling water and stir well.
Add the retained original coconut water. Place to one side for 1 hour.

After an hour add some more boiling water-I added another litre at home. Allow to cool until it is comfortable to handle. Then gently squeeze the coconut pulp in the warm water. Do this for about 5 minutes. I have to say this is wonderfully soothing and your hands will be incredibly soft and coconut scented at the end!

Once you have squeezed away then do one final hard squeeze and remove the pulp and discard. The resulting coconut milk can then be used in cooking. So much better and cheaper than the usual cans of coconut milk!

For the Rice and Peas use about 1 litre of the coconut milk.

Add the litre of coconut milk to the pan of cooked and softened beans together with the salt, butter, whole chilli, spring onion, thyme, garlic and all-purpose seasoning and boil gently for 15-20 minutes with the lid on. For less chilli heat carefully remove the whole chilli at this point. The cooking should have boiled the chilli to release its fruity flavour but by keeping it whole the membrane and seeds which contain the real ‘heat’ of the chilli have not come in direct contact with the rest of the ingredients and will not be eaten. It will still be ‘hot’ but not extreme.

Now to the basmati rice. Rinse twice under cold running water-Levi explained that in Jamaica it is a real insult to your guests if you fail to do this or even mention that you failed to do so.

Add the rinsed rice to the cooked coconut and red kidney bean mix. Make sure the water is 2.5cm/1 inch above the level of the rice.

Cook for another 20-25 minutes on a really gentle heat until all the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Do not lift the lid during the cooking because you will release all the moisture.

When the rice is cooked, put Clingfilm or foil over the top to seal and cover until ready to serve.

The finished dish should have lovely colour and add a spicy hit to the meal!

And finally...

Levi’s Juicy Jerk Seasoning

This was the spicy and hot seasoning which was added to the griddled vegetables served with the rice and peas and to the chopped and oven roasted vegetables which went into the Veggie Patties. Be warned-it is very hot indeed and a little goes a long way but you could adjust the chilli content to suit.

4 Scotch Bonnet chillies, deseeded and chopped-even Levi used gloves to prepare these chilli-even thoroughly hand washing afterwards can still leave it impregnated into your skin and many’s a chap who has very painfully found that fact out later after a trip to the loo...
1 Spring onion
1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp ground Allspice
2.5cm fresh root Ginger, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3tbsp mixed dried herbs
1 tbsp dried Basil
1 tsp fresh ground Nutmeg
1 tsp ground Cinnamon
2 tbsp fresh Coriander leaves
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp coarse ground pepper
500ml tomato ketchup
Put all the ingredients except the coriander, salt, pepper and ketchup into a food processor and whiz until smooth. Tip into a large bowl then add the fresh coriander and salt and pepper and ketchup and mix well with a spoon. Allow the flavours to mingle well before using.

 NB the spice mix can be stored in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
If you do find yourself in uncomfortable pain from a seriously hot chilli then Levi recommended peanut butter as the high fat content will help absorb the chilli heat.
And finally, finally...

I couldn’t finish without showing you one of the fine cheese shops to be found in Bath-appropriately enough called The Fine Cheese Company and just some of its mouth-watering selection...

They very kindly opened up early for me to nip in and buy some of their delicious cheese on the way to the cookery school!


  1. Hi GD... have never been to Bath yet but probably will not have an opportunity to do so... :-)
    So, it is nice to be able to read about it through your post, especially the Mineral Water Hospital....
    As for the rice and peas, it must be quite difficult for you to secure coconuts for the dish....

    1. Hi Lrong,

      So glad you enjoyed the post-I was also fascinated by the history of the old hospital-amazing what you find out about places and things around you...Yes my next hunt will be for coconuts though they are getting slightly easier to find nowadays and some of the local supermarkets have them at times...

  2. What a wonderful time you had! Bath sounds like a great place to visit and explore. I would have been very interested to both see and listen to Levi as he cooked, though I fear that his foods would be too spicy for me. Last year I watched a broadcast of a contest to find the hottest chili. The judges used aerosol whipping cream to counter the effects of the really hot peppers and the reason given was because of its fat content. I don't think a class could possibly have enough peanut butter nor whipping cream on-hand for me to be able to "enjoy" Scotch Bonnets -- but that doesn't mean I wouldn't enjoy watching them being prepared by a real pro. This was a fantastic post, GD.

    1. Hi John,

      Many thanks for stopping by and your comments. Interesting to hear that cream was used too as a remedy for an over hot chilli. Scotch bonnets are tasty when used carefully-I remember Levi remarking that if the dish was just too hot for hotness sake for anybody to really enjoy then the cook has failed...

  3. Love the tip for using peanut butter to soothe a chili burn, I've also heard it can be used to de-skunk a dog... or is that another urban myth? In any case, wonderful to have more of both Bath and Levi!

    1. Glad you liked ‘The part two’ on Levi and Bath!

      No idea about the effectiveness of peanut butter to de-skunk a dog-very luckily for us we don’t have skunks in the UK...

  4. Wow GD... With a bit of preparation they are not really tedious at all. I am willing to give both the dishes a try. Thanks for being so king to take my requests and sharing the recipes for both the rice and peas and the jerk veg. Could you tell me what veges you used and did you cook them on grill?

    1. Hi Sri,

      Glad you liked the recipes! The veggies we used were a mixture of courgettes, tomatoes, onions, garlic and aubergine (eggplant). We roasted them in a hot oven with a drizzle of oil though I guess you could also cook them on a griddle pan or on a BBQ.

  5. Oh your posts are always so interesting. I was fascinated to learn about Devon Colic. What an interesting time you had of it in Bath. I thought Rastas were all vegetarian. I had a Rasta cookbook many years ago and remember one amazing curry that I used to cook regularly. No idea what happened to the book! Would love to go on a course at Bertinet Kitchen and this one sounds a good one. I was lucky enough to go to one at Demuth's a couple of years ago thought and that was great too and I loved Bath.

    1. Hi Choclette,

      Yes I was so intrigued by the names of Devon Colic and West Indian Dry Gripes-and the cause of them...

      Demuths is another fantastic cookery school and obviously all vegetarian which is another plus.

      I bought Levi’ new book-Sweet-so will be looking through that this weekend to choose a recipe or two to try out...

  6. I once made a spice blend using scotch bonnet chillies which I prepared without gloves - I probably cut up about 10 of them and after I finished my hands started with a dull burn and the intensity gradually increased. Not fun at all - if only I'd know the peanut butter trick as I found it impossible to wash away the sensation.

    1. Hi Liz,

      Yikes that sounds awful! I know I’m going to be careful from now on when I handle them...

  7. I learned so much from this post, Bath, the The Mineral Water Hospital, lead in cider, Levi.... Am so glad that lady stopped to talk to you and gave you all that history.
    Wondering what products we are now using/consuming that future generation will discover is causing many health issues?????

    1. Hi Norma,

      It’s amazing what you can still learn about a place that you already thought you knew-proves once again you never stop learning!!

  8. I have so enjoyed your posts about bath and the cooking school. The rice and peas sounds incredibly good cooked with the coconut milk. The wet jerk does sound very spicy with 4 scotch bonnets but good I'm sure.

    1. Hi Karen,

      The Rice and Peas are really tasty-and looks great too as you bring a big red bowl steaming to the table! The jerk is very hot and a little goes a long way...

  9. Lovely pics and the wet jerk I may have to give a try. I have a recipe but always happy for another!

    1. Hi David,

      Thanks for the kind comments about my photos-I am trying! The jerk is very hot-I’ve since made it with just one scotch bonnet and that was plenty hot enough for me!!

  10. If I ever have to go to hospital I would like to go to one with mineral springs. Bath is so beautiful. No wonder there are so many tourists. Love these recipes. Can I just ask...is the rice and peas dish used as a main course or is it more of a side-dish? I was thinking of cooking this tonight but have now realised I must prepare my own beans! And coconut milk! xx

    1. Hi Charlie,

      I’ve had a delve into the hospital’s history and it’s amazing what it used to treat with the ‘waters’. According to the old lady I spoke to it was originally built by Bladud, father of Shakespear’s King Lear in 500BC, after he discovered the local farmers used to bring their pigs to wallow in the hot mud as it cured any disease or illness they had...

      Re the Rice and Peas-I would say it is more of a side dish to mop up any tasty juices from a mains.

  11. Fascinating post! Britain is so beautiful... I have only been to London, but I wish I could visit Bath and other less famous places. The recipes look very unusual and delicious. I especially like the jerk seasoning. I love heat in food :-)

    1. Hi Sissi,

      If you ever get the chance to visit the UK again I’m sure your fellow bloggers could recommend places to visit!
      I am loving experimenting with Caribbean cooking-so different from the usual European recipes!

  12. Everything looks fabulous! Your posts make me hungry and make me want to speed up my trip to London this spring! I've read about Bath and would love to go there. :o)

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Have a lovely trip to London next Spring-fingers crossed the weather will be kind to you!

  13. I love Caribbean food, and love Rice and Peas. Thanks so much for this great sounding recipe and the seasoning too! I'm imagining it to be pretty spicy with the 4 Scotch bonnet chiles, and we love spicy food in our house.

    1. Thanks too for stopping by. Another fan of Caribbean food I see! With all those Scotch Bonnets, it’s safe to say it is hot and spicy!!


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