So a few months ago a cousin-in-law sent us a care package from Charleston. The package consisted of pralines, which we ate right away, Bennie Waffers, which we ate right after the pralines, and field peas, aromatic rice, and grits. The last of these things have been getting shuffled around in the cabinet for months and I finally decided to make something of them, well the peas and rice at least. I decided on Hoppin John.
Hoppin John is a traditional dish of the African diaspora, its made either with field peas or black eyed peas. (Apparently some say Caribbean versions are made with other kinds of beans, though I am not convinced that you would still call those hoppin john. . .) The dish is traditionally served on New Years Day for good luck in the coming year, particularly financial luck. The peas are supposed to represent coins.
Usually Hoppin John is seasoned with ham hocks, or ham bones, or some kind of ham parts, but I decided to go for vegetarian Hoppin John to “healthify” the recipe–I have to admit that it’s not as good without the pork, but I am going to keep trying at this and modifying this post as I figure out how to make it tastier. So this version is actually vegan. I made enough to make about 3 cups worth.
You will need:
1/4 cup of field peas or black eyed peas–soaked overnight or at least 6 hours
3 cloves of garlic-minced
1 green or red pepper–chopped
A pinch of cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper
Start with a bit of oil in a dutch oven or medium pot. Heat up the oil. Add the minced garlic and chopped onion, cook for about five minutes or until golden brown and wonderful smells fill the room. Add the carrot slivers, the pepper, the pinches of spices, and the field peas. Stir everything together. Add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then turn it down to low heat and cover. Let it cook for about 40 minutes or until the peas are soft but not mushy. You might need to add a bit more water as you go this seems to depend on how long you soaked them and how low you get your stove down to when simmering.
While the beans are cooking start on the rice–I usually use a rice cooker, but for Carolina aromatic rice it seemed better to go with the stovetop method, which is tricky territory (at least for me). So my advice is to measure well and resist the temptation to take off the lid!
Once they are both done, mix them together and there you have your hoppin john. This is the basic recipe. Some people add collard or other greens to this as well. Some people even put actual pennies in it, but I think that sounds dangerous. . .