"Each bite is layered and intense."
Last time I ate black-eyed peas, I was nestled up to the bar at Ed Mitchell's barbecue joint, The Pit, in Raleigh, North Carolina. They looked familiar and comforting, swimming in a porky broth that paired nicely with the incredible chopped pork.
I'm probably not alone in pairing black-eyed peas with Southern cuisine, but did you know they are just as at home in Indian cuisine, too? This recipe from Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries is about as good of an introduction as you can find.
One great thing about black-eyed peas: they cook quickly. It only takes around 35 to 45 minutes to cook them from scratch (and less if you're using a pressure cooker). That will give you time to focus on flavoring these guys, which Iyer takes on with abandon.
This is not a mild dish. Red onions are cooked in oil until deep-red and caramelized, before being blended up with fresh garlic. Cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, and cardamom also make an appearance along with turmeric and a healthy pinch of cayenne. Each bite is layered and intense. When paired with some rice, this makes an excellent vegetarian meal.
- 1 cup dried black-eyed peas
- 1/4 large red onion, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cardamom pods
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Dump the black-eyed peas into a large pot. Pour enough water in to cover, then stir with your fingers. The water might appear slightly dirty. Drain this water off and repeat this process twice, then pour in 3 cups of water and turn the heat to high. When boiling, cover the pot, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 35 to 45 minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile, pour 1 tablespoons of the oil into a small skillet set over medium heat. Add the red onion. Stir often, and cook until they are well caramelized and dark purple. It should take about 25 to 30 minutes. When done, add this to a blender along with 1/4 water and the garlic cloves. Blend until smooth.
Combine the garlic and red onion mixture with 1/2 cup water, tomato paste, salt, cayenne, and turmeric in a bowl. Stir well until combined.
Pour the rest of the oil into a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, and cardamom pods. Cook for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant, then add spice mixture. Stir well, then reduce heat to medium-low. Partially cover the pan and simmer for 8 minutes. When done, turn off the heat and wait for the black-eyed peas to finish.
When the black-eyed peas are tender, pour in the sauce from the skillet. Simmer the blacked-eyed peas for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, and cardamom pods.
Serves with white rice and a sprinkling of cilantro.