Any of you who are from the U.S. South will know that most of us Southerners (I count...sort of... having grown up in Texas with parents now in Atlanta) eat black eyed peas on New Year's day for good luck. I was determined to introduce Luis to this tradition this year and get 2013 off to a lucky start, though I had no clue about the legend behind this little superstition. Turns out that some say it dates back to the Civil War, when Union troops raided Confederate food supplies and took everything except salted pork and black eyed peas, which were considered as unfit for human consumption. But thanks to the black eyed peas, the Confederates were able to survive the harsh winter. Another account says that black eyed peas were the only thing which newly freed Southern slaves had to celebrate the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, on the 1st of January of 1863. Regardless of which version you believe (and there are others...West Indians apparently also eat black eyed peas on New Year's day), one thing is for sure...black eyed peas are a staple of Southern and soul food cuisine!
I don't think that I ever saw a black eyed pea in the 6 years that I lived in France, so I'd totally forgotten how delicious they are. Here in Bangkok, they are available in both dried and canned varieties. I'm ashamed to admit that I've always shied away from dried beans and legumes, mistakenly presuming that they take too long to soak and cook. This is definitely not the case in regard to black eyed peas, and Luis taught me a nifty little trick which he says works for cooking any dried pulses...add a touch of baking soda while cooking and apparently this greatly speeds up the cooking process! In a quest to eat healthier and reduce the sodium in our diet, I look forward to cooking more dried lentils and beans this year. Black eyed peas will definitely be in the regular rotation...they are high in protein, potassium, iron and fiber...and they're delicious!
This soup was adapted from a highly-rated recipe from Gourmet magazine. The Greek yogurt adds a nice tang, while pomegranate molasses (available in Middle Eastern markets or specialty food stores) lends just a touch of sweetness and a nice pop of color.
We both loved this so much that there was just enough for the two of us, though I suspect that I might have accidentally let some of the liquid evaporate meaning that it might have made a bigger batch otherwise. Regardless...it made for a delicious New Year's Day dinner and will be repeated ASAP!
CURRIED BLACK EYED PEA SOUP
1 cup dried black eyed peas (or 2 14-ounce cans of black eyed peas, drained and rinsed well)
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups of vegetable/mushroom broth or 6 cups of water + 1 vegetable/mushroom stock cube
Dash of baking soda
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon good quality curry powder or sambar powder
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
Salt, to taste (if needed)
2 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
Greek yogurt or squeeze of fresh lemon juice, for serving
Pomegranate molasses, for serving (optional)
1. If you have time and are so inclined, soak the black eyed peas in a bowl with enough water to cover them for a couple of hours before making your soup. It is not necessary but I was nervous making this with dried black eyed peas and wanted to soak them just in case. Drain and wash well.
2. In a large pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and saute until translucent.
3. Add the broth or water and stock cube, black eyed peas, dash of baking soda and all spices. Mix well and increase heat to boiling.
4. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the peas are soft. Reduce heat to low.
5. Puree two cups of the peas and liquid in a blender to get a thick bisque. Mix this as well as your chopped coriander back into the pot. Mix well and check for salt.
6. Serve topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt or squeeze of fresh lemon juice and pomegranate molasses, if desired.