Red Red Stew

As one who pursues a predominantly whole-foods, plant-based diet, I like to experiment with different types of beans and different ways of preparing them. My latest adventure features black-eyed peas.

Black-Eyed PeasI lived in the South for well over a decade and noshed on my fair share of black-eyed peas. Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is thought to bring prosperity in the coming year. By tradition, the peas are cooked with bacon, hambones, or hog jowls along with diced onion and hot sauce (or pepper-flavored vinegar). It’s served with collard, turnip, or mustard greens and ham. The plumped-up peas symbolize growth; greens symbolize money. And because pigs root forward when foraging, their presence suggests positive motion. But since I generally steer clear of meat, I need an alternative treatment.

As luck would have it, black-eyed peas were first domesticated in West Africa. It’s an everyday, year-round staple over there. They eat them fresh, ground, and dried. So I opted to prepare a vegetarian version of the Ghanaian Red Red Stew.

1 pound dried beans
1/2 cup healthy cooking oil
Red Red Stew1 medium-to-large onion, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon smoked paprika (or to taste)
2 teaspoons kelp granules
1/4 teaspoons chili powder
2-3 cups vegetable stock
3-6 green onions, chopped

Directions:

  1. Pick through the black-eyed peas and discard any foreign objects (e.g., small pebbles). Rinse the beans and place them in a large pot submerged under 3-4 inches of water. Cover and let sit overnight.
  2. Drain the soaked beans, rinse them, and place them in a large pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer for 40-60 minutes, until the beans are tender but not mushy. (Note: If you prefer using a pressure cooker, cooking time general runs 8-12 minutes.) Drain the beans and set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the onions for 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, ginger, garlic, paprika, smoked paprika, kelp granules, and chili powder. Cook while stirring for an additional minute. (Note: Add a little vegetable stock to the pan if the ingredients start sticking.)
  4. Add the beans, green onions, and the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. (Note: You only want to add just enough stock to create the consistency of a hearty stew, not a watery soup.)
  5. Sample the stew and add smoked paprika as needed to make the dish more flavorful.

Ghanaians generally use crayfish in lieu of smoked paprika and kelp granules to produce that salty, smoky flavor. If that’s your preference, use about 1/3 cup of crayfish with or without the smoked paprika and kelp granules. If you like it “hot-ish,” add a whole habanero pepper with the rest of the spices.

Whatever your pleasure, you’ll enjoy a delicious stew while doing your body a big favor. One cup of cooked black-eyed peas contains a mere 200 calories but packs 13 g of protein and 11 g of dietary fiber. It also provides a gaggle of vital micronutrients, notably folate (89% RDA), manganese (41% RDA), phosphorus (27% RDA), iron (24% RDA), thiamine (23% RDA), magnesium (23% RDA), copper (23% RDA), zinc (15% RDA), potassium (14% RDA), and others.