Saturday, January 5, 2013


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My new Hoppin' John with cornbread (instead of rice) and mixed greens and garlic (chard, kale, rapini and spinach-- collards would be good, too)
I decided to update my New Year's Hoppin' John this year-- to make it more flavorful and a little spicier.  I've been using the same recipe that I devised back in the 90's (vegan Hoppin' John recipes were not so easy to find back then), so I thought it was about time for a makeover.  

For some background on the dish, if you're not familiar, here's the write-up from my book, The Almost No-Fat Holiday Cookbook:
"There are several universal customs that link New Year's festivities from country to country-- loud noise-making; partying, feasting and drinking; dressing up in costume or new clothes; paying off old debts; and eating beans!  Yes, strange as it may seem, there is a long association between beans and good luck on New Year's Day.

In Japan it has been the custom for the head of the house to go through all of the rooms at midnight of New Year's Eve scattering roasted beans about and chanting "Oni wa soto, fuka wa uchi" ("Out with the demons! In with the Luck!").

In Northern Europe families or communities selected a King, and sometimes also a Queen, of Bean, "the nobilities of Misrule", who presided over games and revels.
In the Southern United States even today it is the custom [and it has obviously spread to other parts of North America!] to eat black-eyed peas, usually in the form of a dish called Hoppin' John, for good luck in the New Year.  The spicy black-eyed peas and rice (with the greens that often accompany them) were brought to the South by African slaves.  The English-Irish-Scottish slave-owners brought their Celtic and Anglo-Saxon customs of eating beans for good luck and hopping over the dying embers of New Year bonfires, also for good luck.  It seems reasonable to assume that this is the origin of the name Hoppin' John (the Anglo-Saxon word "hoppan" meant a religious dance or leap)-- a blending of African foods and European lore."  It should be noted that red peas, cowpeas or field peas, all relatives of black-eyed peas, were and are also used in Hoppin' John, but black-eyed peas are more easily available to most North Americans.

Here is a little additional lore: "In the American South, greens are added to black-eyed peas or hoppin' John (black-eyed peas with rice). The symbolism is straightforward: the greens represented dollars and the black-eyed peas coins. Dried beans, garnished or plain, represent the changing over of years, for they can be stored throughout the winter and then be planted to create the harvest." 

And even more: "The "good luck" traditions of eating black-eyed peas at Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, are recorded in the Babylonian Talmud (compiled circa500 CE), Horayot 12A: "Abaye [d. 339 CE] said, now that you have established that good-luck symbols avail, you should make it a habit to see qara(bottle gourd), rubiya (black-eyed peas, Arabic lubiya), kartei (leeks), silka (either beets or spinach), and tamrei (dates) on your table on the New Year." However, the custom may have resulted from an early mis-translation of the Aramaic word rubiya (fenugreek)."

We ate cornbread instead of rice with the peas this year and I just read this tidbit: "One more from the Southerners: eating cornbread will bring wealth."  That makes me feel better (just kidding)!

So, here's my new recipe, and below that is a delicious soup I made with the leftovers.

Serves about 8

8 cups tasty vegan broth (I like Better Than Bouillon "No-Chicken" vegan broth base)
2 1/2 cups dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
Optional: 1/4 cup vegan "bacon bits" or 1 cup of chopped vegan "ham"
1 teaspoon liquid smoke (if you're not familiar with this product, read this post)
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried red chili flakes (use more if your sausage is not as spicy as the Field Roast Chipotle)
4 teaspoons dark sesame oil
2 spicy vegan sausages, sliced 1/4-inch thick (I used Field Roast Chipotle sausages, which make the stew really spicy)
1/3 of a (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon ketchup (Do not omit! This little bit of the tomato-ey condiment rounds out the flavor nicely.)

In a large pot, mix together the broth, black-eyed peas, optional "bacon bits" or "ham", and liquid smoke.  Bring to a boil.

While that's heating, saute the onions, garlic and chili flakes in the dark sesame oil in a heavy nonstick, cast iron or hard-anodized skillet over medium-high heat until the onions are softened.  Alternatively, you can soften them in the oil in a covered microwave-proof  casserole for about 6 minutes on 100% power.

Add the softened onions to the pot with the black-eyed peas. Add the sliced sausages, tomato paste and ketchup.  Bring to a boil, turn down to a low simmer, cover and cook for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are tender.

Serve with steamed long grain brown rice or cornbread, and braised greens.

UPDATE: You can make this in the Instant Pot or a pressure cooker. Saute the onions, garlic and chili flakes in the oil in the Instant Pot on the Saute function.  Add the remaining ingredients and cook at High pressure (using the Bean or Manual function on the Instant Pot) for 20 minutes.  Let the pressure come down for at least 10 minutes before you release the steam.

And here is the soup recipe you can make with the leftovers:

Hoppin' John Soup that we ate for lunch today, with rice this time

Serves 4

So easy, so good!

3 1/2 cups leftover Hoppin' John (see above)
3 1/2 cups tasty vegan broth  (I like Better Than Bouillon "No-Chicken" vegan broth base)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
9 ounces sweet potato (orange flesh), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 ounces Swiss chard (weighed after large stalks are removed) or other fresh greens, washed, drained and thinly sliced
1/2 tablespoon cider vinegar
about 3 cups hot cooked brown rice (I used a combo of brown Basmati and Thai red rice)
smoked paprika

Mix together the ingredients in a medium pot, bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.  Stir in the vinegar and taste for salt and chile heat-- add a little hot sauce if you like.

To serve, divide the soup between 4 soup bowls or plates.  Measure some of the rice in a 2/3 cup measure.  Pack it down firmly.  Overturn the measuring cup in the center of each bowl and whack the bottom of it with the heavy end of a table knife to loosen it from the cup.  Sprinkle a bit of the smoked paprika across the soup and the rice and serve.

Happy New Year!


Anonymous said...

Authentic Hoppin John has traditionally been made with Field Peas (a small brown pea) and not black-eyed peas. Most people from the South know this but you can still only find the field peas in locally-owned grocery stores. I'm not sure who decided to change it but probably someone who couldn't get Field Peas after having the authentic dish.

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Thanks for writing, Anonymous! I found this: "Hoppin' John
The South Carolina Encyclopedia describes Hoppin’ John as “a pilaf made with beans and rice.” Typical of the one-pot cooking of the South Carolina lowcountry, the Hoppin' John recipe is said to have come directly to America from West Africa. The first written appearance of the recipe in English was in Sarah Rutledge’s The Carolina Housewife, or House and Home by a Lady of Charleston, published anonymously in 1847.

The original Charleston version called for “one pound of bacon, one pint of red peas, one pint of rice.” Red peas are cowpeas or dried field peas and were used as cattle feed. Like black-eyed peas, they are not peas but legumes (beans). The culinary scholar Karen Hess said she believes that both recipe and name are derived from Hindi, Persian, and Malay words that mean, simply, “cooked rice and beans.” Whatever the origins, the dish, originally made with pigeon peas in West Africa, became a favorite of the rice plantation owners as well as the enslaved. As the recipe moved inland, it became the traditional dish for good luck on New Year’s Day throughout the South and a favority Gullah food."