Thursday, January 1, 2009

Black-eyed Pea Curry

Any of you folks who’ve lived in the South know that New Year’s Day is a day to eat black-eyed peas, especially in the form of Hoppin’ John. I won’t be coy—tho I have a grand Hoppin’ John recipe around here somewhere, courtesy of our good pal out in Athena, OR, Caty Clifton, I’m just not organized enough to make & post same. What I have instead is a curry Eberle & I have developed over the years; this does incorporate the black-eyed pea, & if you’d like, you certainly could serve it with a side of fried collard greens (part of the “good luck” of Hoppin’ John, as I understand, is the side of collard greens). Also, for those of you who are concerned about things, this recipe is vegetarian & can easily be vegan as well—just use oil alone for sautéing; & for those of you for whom a meal isn’t complete without some form of meat, a good sausage or bacon would go quite nicely here.

I first started cooking some prehistoric variation of this back in my San Francisco days—I believe while Eberle & I were in the midst of our red state-blue state courtship (not a comment on anyone involved’s actual politics), & after I moved to Idaho I kept tinkering with it, often with suggestions from Eberle. Right now we’re both happy with it, tho I’ve been thinking I might experiment with some chopped celery next time around, thus forming the “holy trinity of cuisine.” The dish already contains bell pepper & onions. If anyone out there wants to try it, I say go for it—just eyeball how much celery looks good in with the other ingredients—I’m thinking a couple of stalks, chopped.

The ingredients are as follows:

1-½ cups of black-eyed peas
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 Tbsp of olive oil, or if you prefer, 2 Tbsp of olive oil & 2 Tbsp of butter (the non-vegan form)
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed: As I’ve pointed out in most of the past recipe posts, Eberle & I are fiends for garlic. If you’re less fiendish for it (or more!) you can adjust to taste
1 heaping Tbsp of curry powder
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp cardamom
¼ tsp cayenne, or a finely chopped chili of your choice (alliterative moment): Again, this “heat” is to taste; I think you can have it just as hot as you like, but I also think there needs to be a little bit of heat, even for you folks who like things on the milder side.
2 large bell peppers
(if you were adding celery, I’m thinking 2 stalks)
2-4 tomatoes, chopped: Two if you’re going with a large variety; four if smaller vine-ripened sort
8-oz of tomato sauce

While you’re cooking the black-eyed peas (until just done), heat the oil (or oil/butter) in a heavy skillet or a large pot such as the Creuset in the pic above, then add the onions & garlic. While sautéing the onions & garlic, add the spices. It’s best to keep the heat on the low side of medium & let everything cook fairly slowly, stirring of course from time to time. When the onions are starting to turn golden, you’d add the chopped bell peppers, & if you’re going for the theoretical celery variation, you’d add this at the same time.

I always blanche & peel the tomatoes when making this dish. Do you have to? No, but it’s nice. For those of you who aren’t obsessive tomato blanchers, I like to carve a shallow X in the tomatoes before tossing them into boiling water. Blanching doesn’t take long, & the less the tomatoes are cooked when doing this, the better. I also always have a bowl of cold water right next to the pot I’m using for blanching, & scoop the tomatoes into the cold water once I see the slightest sign of the tomato skin “relaxing” or curling back. Usually, I peel the tomatoes right in the cold water.

Add the tomatoes to the pot; I usually just let them cook at a medium temperature until they begin yielding a noticeable amount of liquid, then I add the tomato sauce, give everything a stir, turn the heat down, cover, & let it go at a slow simmer. As soon as the black-eyed peas are done, drain them & add them to the pot, stirring them in well.

It’s best to give everything a good 20 minutes over low heat so the flavors can really get into the black-eyed peas. As long as you’re keeping an eye on things & keeping the heat down, longer is better, because everything will get more flavorful. Of course, there’s no law that says this basic recipe must be made with black-eyed peas. I think black beans would work quite nicely. A great advantage to black-eyed peas—besides their New Year’s good luck mojo—is they’re easy; no soaking, & they cook relatively quickly—more or less 45 minutes (it’s very hard to predict cooking times for any form of bean—the best test is taste).

I serve this over rice—either white or brown rice works nicely. Besides collard greens, cornbread is always a good side dish.

Hope you enjoy this, & Happy New Year to one & all.


  1. Thanks for the recipe. Wishing you the very best in 2009.

  2. Best wishes to you as well, Blue in Green. Thanks for the comments this a.m.



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