Of all the food traditions associated with New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, none are as prevalent as black-eyed peas.
In the South, we usually eat them in the form of Hoppin’ John or some other kind of black-eyed pea stew, but if you’re tired of Hoppin’ John or just want to try a new dish this weekend, check out this curry from one of my favorite cookbook authors, Crescent Dragonwagon.
Dragonwagon included this vegan dish in her 2012 book, “Bean By Bean: A Cookbook: More than 175 Recipes for Fresh Beans, Dried Beans, Cool Beans, Hot Beans, Savory Beans, Even Sweet Beans!” (Workman, $17.95), where she explains:
“Tanzania was formed in 1964 when two former British colonies…joined to become the United Republic of Tanzania. With Africa’s highest mountain and deepest lake, with coastal areas and a central plateau, the country is diverse geographically, ecologically and agriculturally. This luscious bowl reflects the coast’s coconut palms and banana trees. The seasonings combine indigenous Zanzibar cloves with spices introduced by immigrants from the Indian subcontinent, particularly Goa. The beans are widely grown throughout this still mostly small-farm-based country.”
Don’t let the banana freak you out. You can make this without the banana, but if you like the smooth texture and earthy sweetness that an avocado provides on top of tortilla soup or chili, you might as well try a bite with the banana.
The quantity of water you’ll use the cook the beans and then make the stew will depend on many factors, particularly how cooked your beans are when you start. Her recipe starts with dried beans, but I started with these pre-soaked beans from H-E-B that I thought were more cooked than they actually were.
If I were making this soup again, especially on a weeknight or when I didn’t have as much time as on a holiday or weekend, I’d likely start with canned black-eyed peas.
Want to make this a full meal? Serve it on top of cooked rice or add several handfuls of greens (spinach, kale, collards, etc.) during the last 15 minutes of simmering on the stove.
Curried Black-Eyed Pea and Coconut Stew
1 cup dried black-eyed peas, picked over and rinsed
2 Tbsp. coconut oil, ghee, vegetable or peanut oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 green or red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 serrano or jalapeño, seeds removed and finely chopped
1 teaspoon freshly minced ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder, preferably one with lots of turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes with their juices
1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar
1 (15 oz.) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 banana, thickly sliced (optional)
Banana chips or toasted coconut, for garnish (optional)
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Combine the black-eyed peas and 4 cups water in a large, heavy saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and then turn down heat to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, until the black-eyed peas are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Toward the end of the cooking, heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat and cook the onions until soft, about 6 minutes. Stir in the peppers, chile and ginger and cook, stirring often, for another 4 minutes. Lower the heat slightly and add the curry powder and cloves, sauteing until the oil has taken on a slightly yellowish tint, another 1 to 2 minutes.
Stir the onion mixture into the simmering black-eyed peas, along with the tomatoes, honey and coconut milk. Continue simmering for 5 to 10 minutes. Season the soup with salt and pepper. Just before serving, add the sliced banana (if using) and garnish each bowl with toasted coconut shreds or banana chips, if you like.
— Adapted from a recipe by Crescent Dragonwagon in “Bean By Bean: A Cookbook: More than 175 Recipes for Fresh Beans, Dried Beans, Cool Beans, Hot Beans, Savory Beans, Even Sweet Beans!” (Workman, $17.95)