Thursday, January 2, 2014

Hoppin 'John for good luck - New Year's dish

Hoppin' John

After the Christmas feast this dish is stunning in its simplicity. The main ingredient - black-eyed beans ensure prosperity and abundance in the New Year. Hoppin' John is eaten on 1st of January in the southern United States. Accompanied by: rice, dark green vegetables (like green $) and cornbread (symbolizing the precious gold). This set of dishes is to ensure financial success in the coming year.

The recipe for Hoppin 'John comes from Lowlands on South Carolina coast. But it has its roots much further - in West Africa, especially Senegal, where people eat cowpeas and rice for centuries.

City of Charleston South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina. We visited this stylish city in 2006.

Rice and beans are very popular combination in many traditional cuisines (especially in warm or tropical countries). The residents of equatorial Africa and Central and South America love every imaginable dish with these ingredients. In South America it is so iconic that Brazilian singer Daniela Mercury released a CD called "Feij√£o com Arroz" (portuguese for: beans and rice), one of my favorites from the time I moved to Portugal. You can already find some rice and bean dishes on my blog: a Cuban and a Honduran version. Today it is time for the U.S. rice and beans.

Hoppin' John

Initially, Hoppin 'John was cooked and eaten mostly by blacks slaves, then somewhere in the middle of the eighteenth century everybody in the southern states began to enjoy it. Every American cook has a favourite recipe for this dish. Variations abound. The core ingredients are: black-eyed peas, some kind of smoked meat (bacon or sometimes the whole ham on the bone), hot peppers, and of course rice to accompany the dish. My version of Hoppin John s a little bit unorthodox - I add tomatoes to it,  but it helps to blend all the tastes very well. This is best done in big pot, as reheatings only enchances the flavours.

Just a word about the strange sounding name - it is said that Hoppin' John is a corruption of Creole pois pigeon (pigeon peas).

All the best for the New Year!

 Hoppin' John

Hoppin' John

3 cups of dry black-eyed peas
1 onion, peeled and halved
3 carrots, peeled
2 l broth cooked with some smaked meat or veal stock
3 bay leavessalt to taste

250 g bacon, cut into ladrons
1 onion
2 celery sticks
1 green bell pepper
6 garlic cloves, crushed 
 salt to taste
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
800 g tinned tomatoes

Soak the beans in plenty of water for 10-12 hours. Drain them off. Add carrots, 1 onion, beans and 3 bay leaves to the broth. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 min. Add salt at the end of cooking. Reserve 2 cups of cooking broth. Drain off the rest. Throw away onion, carrots and bay leaves.

In a large, preferably cast iron pot fry bacon until browned. Dice onions, celery and peppers. Add the vegetables to the bacon. When the vegetables are tender, add the garlic and fry for a while. Add thyme, paprika, pepper and bay leaves. Add diced tomatoes with liquid. Cook covered for about 30 minutes. Add the beans and enough cooking liquid to get the desired consistency.

Serve with cooked rice.

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