Holiday Cuisine Main Courses

Forget John, It’s Time for Hoppin’ Ben

This is a vegan version of Hoppin’ John, the black-eyed pea dip/salad/soup said to bring good luck when eaten on New Year’s Day. (A mess of greens and cornbread complete the traditional charm).

Hoppin' Ben 2014
Photo by Christy Pollock

Like split peas and lentils, black-eyes do not have to be soaked before cooking. If served immediately, this is more of a soup. Leftovers can be savored, at room temperature, as a bean salad or a dip for pita crisps or tortilla chips, as the pot thickens upon sitting. To reconstitute leftovers — and you will have some — into a stew, add a touch of water and reheat. To return to a soup, add a bit more water.

Hoppin’ Ben can be made with a 4-quart or larger pressure cooker or just a big pot on the stove. Tip: Preheat the water to boiling in a kettle to save time. Tip: Stock can be used instead of water, OR 1-4 teaspoons low-salt broth powder can be added to water. A low-fat version is given in Notes below.

  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil, divided use
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2-3 ribs celery, diced to pea size
  • 1 small to medium carrot, diced to pea size (half-cup)
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and diced to pea size
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt, to start with
  • 1-3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 lb. (2.5 cups) dried black-eyed peas, inspected and rinsed
  • 2-3 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 10 oz. can tomatoes and peppers (such as Rotel), undrained
  • 1-2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (optional)

Pressure cooker: With 2 Tablespoons oil, saute all vegetables except garlic over medium heat 5 minutes. Scoot vegetables to sides, add remaining 1 Tablespoon oil to bare middle then drop in all at once garlic and spices into oil and sizzle 15 seconds. Stir everything together 1 minute. Add peas, oregano, water and tomatoes. Lock on the lid and bring to pressure. Lower heat and cook 8 minutes. Reduce pressure with your cooker’s quick method, remove cover and return cooker to stove. Check peas for tenderness and simmer a few more minutes if needed. Take off burner, taste and add vinegar and a little more salt if desired. If too soupy, serve with slotted spoon; the great broth can be used elsewhere.

Dutch oven: Saute vegetables and spices as above. Add peas, oregano, water and tomatoes. Bring to boil over high, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, 45-60 minutes, adding a little more hot water as needed, until a couple of sample peas are tender. Take off burner, taste and add vinegar and a little more salt if desired.

Eight generous servings. Garnishes: chopped parsley or cilantro, minced scallions or chives, corn chips, also sour cream or plain yogurt (dairy or vegan versions).

Notes: The pressure cooker is my preference. I always make the stew on New Year’s morning while watching the parades on TV, even though it can be more practical to cook the day before. A medium to large rice cooker can be used, follow Dutch oven instructions. Slow cookers are not recommended for cooking any dry beans. Also, for a spicier stew, consider adding 1/4 teaspoon, scant, cayenne flakes or chipotle powder, but only after tasting to check the heat.

Low-fat option:  Cook peas in the water. For pressure cookers, add 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil to the pot. After removing lid and ensuring peas are tender, raise heat and add all other ingredients except vinegar. When boiling reduce to simmer gently 10-15 minutes. You may need to add a little water or simmer longer to evaporate, for desired soup or stew consistency.

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