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Hands up if you've heard of Ital Rasta?

Though I'm not actually a vegan, most of my meals are vegan because I like this type of food. I don't tell all my clients to become vegan because a) that would be weird and unprofessional and b) many people do better with a bit of animal product in their diet. Personalised nutrition and all that. But me? I like vegan food.

When I think about The Vegan Movement (I can almost feel your eye-rolls!) I imagine its beginnings in the Western world stemming from the hippy dippy 60s and 70s. Hinduism was a big influence, bringing yoga, meditation and a more natural, plant-based diet. I thought this timing made sense as a reaction to the cinched waists and ready meals of the 1950s.

What if I told you though, that Rastafarians have been eating a plant-based, natural food diet since the religion developed in Jamaica during the 1930s?! When I think of Caribbean food, I think of hearty, meaty food. But in fact, the Rastafarians were influenced by the indentured Indians on the island that didn't eat meat...way before the 1960s!

Rastafarians call it: Ital Rasta. Ital food flows with the Rastafarian concept of livity, which is based on the idea that the life-force of Jah (God) exists within all living things. The term Ital stems from the word “vital” (for pronunciation: the two words rhyme).

So as an homage to yummy Ital food, here is a delicious (very spicy) recipe for Black-Eyed Pea Curry With Steamed Plantains (serves 4):

You can find plantain in the world foods section in the supermarket or if you have a good market near you, check that out (mine is Shepherd's Bush Market and it has everything!) If you can't find any, substitute with sweet potato.


1 tablespoon peanut oil (or walnut oil if you can't do peanuts)

1/4 cup finely chopped shallot

1 red pepper, finely diced

1/2 to 1 habañero pepper (Scotch Bonnet), seeded and minced (depending on how spicy you like things)

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger

2 bay leaves

1 star anise

2 teaspoons mild curry powder

1 pinch cinnamon

About 3 stems of fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup coconut milk

3/4 cup water

400g can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon light agave nectar

Juice from about 1/2 a lime

2 very ripe plantains, split lengthwise and cut into 1 inch chunks

Enough rice for 4 people


Bring a steamer to the boil, get the rice on and preheat a small, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Sauté the shallot, red pepper, and habañero (Scotch bonnet) in the oil for about five minutes, until softened.

Add the garlic and ginger, bay leaf, and star anise, and sauté about two minutes more. Add a splash of water, the curry powder, the cinnamon and thyme stems. Mix for about 30 seconds, just to toast the curry powder a bit.

Add the salt, coconut milk, water and beans. Cover and heat through for about five minutes. Add agave and lime. Taste for salt and seasoning.

Turn off heat, let sit for 10 minutes to let flavours fuse. Remove thyme stems, anise, and bay leaves.

In the meantime, steam the plantain for about five minutes (or if sweet potato, may need a bit longer). The plantains should appear plump and bright yellow.

To assemble: Serve beans over rice in wide-rimmed bowls. Top with plantains.

We hope this inspires some of you to turn up the heat and get into some plant lovin'! If you have any questions, just drop us a line at

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