Saturday, May 28, 2011

Black Eyed Peas Go Indian, A Family Mystery Solved

   Black eyed peas were a big deal in my family every New Years Day. My mother would whip up a pot of Hoppin' John, a mixture of  black eyed peas, ham hocks and  onion. Evidently it was supposed to bring good luck and prosperity in the year to come. For years I dutifully ate this every year, never once questioning why. I mean, why oh why would a bunch of Italians sit around eating Hoppin' John on New Years Day, worried about luck?! It turns out there was family secret. Through a weird series of events connected to strange conspiracy theories I won't go into here, I got access to one of those family record sites online.
   One of the first things I did was look into the records of my 49'r (not the football team but the miner guys) ancestors. I knew they'd come here in 1849 looking for gold but I never knew from where they'd come. That was the shocker. Turns out they didn't come from France (in the case of my great great great grandfather) in 1849. They were already here having immigrated to the US back in 1832. Great great great grandpa Jean had come to California from New Orleans, where he'd been brought as a 2 year old infant.
   That explained soooo much. The French name of course I knew, but my family evidently has a rich old history in New Orleans and were quite prominent in the civic life of the city way back in the 1840's and '50's. The family's houses still stand on the historic register in the Treme district on the Bayou Road. So that explains the Hoppin' John and the reason there are some quirky French customs in this family of Gold Rush pioneers and my insane love for black eyed peas. 
  When I started cooking Indian food eons ago I found  to my delight a lot of recipes that called for the black eyed pea and I cooked then often. When we made Sonoma our main base of operations a few years ago, I was shocked to discover that I'd lost my black eyed peas! In LA I could get them almost anywhere. Here, not so much. Usually it involved a trek to the Indian market in Cotati and even that was a crap shoot. I couldn't find them in a can, I couldn't find them in a bin, I couldn't find them in a freezer...and before I  go all Cat In The Hat on you about where they weren't, this week I discovered where they were. Whole Foods started carrying them. It turns out that  a company called Stahlbush Island Farms sells them organically, non-GMO frozen! I was over the moon! Finally! Okay, so I'm not soaking them myself, but short of that, these are tasty little devils which hold up well in the freezing process and have the added advantage of being right at hand whenever a black eyed pea craving hits. Which it did.
  One of my favorite Indian dishes is Lobhla aur Khumbi or black eyed peas with tomato and mushrooms. The best part of this recipe is how fast, fast, fast it cooks up if one is using those darling little frozen black eyed beauties. This goes from stove to table in about half an hour. The peas are a great source of protein and fiber and the rest of the ingredients cheep cheep cheep like a birdie. And speaking of birdies, it's vegetarian and vegan and gluten free.

  Indian Style Black Eyed Peas

Here's how to do it:

 Defrost a 1 lb bag of frozen black eyed peas or
If using  dried ones put 1 and 3/4 cup of the dried peas in 5 cups of water, bring it to a boil and then simmer it for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let them soak for 1 hour.
 In  a large skillet or kadhai, heat 2 Tbs of vegetable oil.
 When the oil is hot add in :
  1 tsp of cumin seeds
  1 cinnamon stick
 Let it saute for a few seconds and then add in:
  1 and 1/2 chopped onion
  2 large chopped shallots
Stir everything around and cook until the onions start to brown lightl.
Add in 8 oz of fresh mushrooms and cook them down until they start to soften.
Add in:
 4 chopped peeled tomatoes or 1 can of chopped tomatoes
 2 tsp coriander
 2 tsp cumin
 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
 1/4 tsp Kashmiri chili or cayenne
 2 teaspoon salt
 1 black peppercorn

 Stir everything together then cover and let it all simmer for about 10 minutes.
 While this is going on if using dried peas, bring them to a boil again and let them simmer again for 20 to 30 minutes. After that, add in the mushroom spice and tomato mixture and simmer the pan uncovered on a low heat for 30 minutes more.
 If using frozen or canned black eyed peas, add them after the ten minutes are up and let them cook through until warm and tender...about 5 minutes or so.
 As you can see, the recipe is done so much more quickly if you have access to either frozen or canned black eyed peas.
 Sprinkle with 3 Tbs of chopped  fresh cilantro  and serve it up!
Served with some fresh warm chapattis, fresh apricots and a glass of cold Mugicha it's a hearty satisfying lunch. Add in another vegetable or two and you've got a banquet! So not using dried black eyed peas..did it work? You bet. Did I enjoy it? Take a look
   I normally don't go in for frozen or canned stuff except in a pinch, but I'm really stoked about these frozen black eyed peas. Coming up next a trick with rhubarb and more gluten free Indian food. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


  1. Delicious. It's even better the second day.

  2. I could really love this recipe with some pulled pork looks like an amazing side dish!

  3. @pegasuslegend,
    yeah I think it would do very well at a holiday barbeque

  4. Great dish (have to say, love your plate, too!)

  5. Kathy, this looks delicious! I can't wait to try it.

    Happy Sunday :)

  6. Hey Miss Black Pea!
    I love blackeyed peas and these look great. We still ha e to Skype soon.

  7. hmmm... looks amazing and so simple to cook.

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