"Eat poor on New Year's and eat fat the rest of the year" is a famous Southern adage that comes to mind as I cook this Black Eyed Peas Curry for my New Year's table. This curry, known as Lobia Masala in Pakistan is a popular vegetarian side dish. However, since living in Mississippi for the past 19 years, the popular Punjabi recipe has taken on new meaning for me.
The Story Of Good Fortune
The predominant belief in the Southeast is that eating Black eyed Peas at the start of the New Year brings good luck. There are many different stories surrounding this popular ritual. The one common fact is that black eyed peas came to America on slave ships to feed the captured slaves.
The peas were subsequently planted and the resulting crops used to feed the poor as well as livestock. Per www.thespruceeats.com during the civil war, this was the one crop that the Union Army did not destroy or steal. As a result, the confederate army survived on this nourishing small bean and it became a symbol of good fortune and prosperity.
Yet another story in modernfarmer.com states that the enslaved ate black eyed peas as a celebration at the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. This then led to the tiny bean becoming a symbol of hope and good fortune.
The most common New Year's preparation in the South includes collard greens. The greens represent paper money while the peas represent good luck, health and abundance.
Benefits of Eating Black Eyed Peas
I love to eat "lobia" as I like to call these delicious beans, whether or not they'll bring me good fortune. I hope the following list of health benefits and pros to making this recipe motivates you to try it not just for New Years but to add it to your regular menu.
- Heart Healthy (low fat)
- Low in sodium
- High in potassium
- Good for weight loss and regularity (lots of fiber)
- Plant based protein
- Helps with Anemia (iron)
- good for skin and hair (vitamin A)
- Vegan diet friendly
- Gluten diet approved
- Easy recipe
The ingredients for the curry are simple. The base, as for any curry, consists of onions, tomatoes and garlic paste. I use 3 basic powdered spices for the flavor and whole cumin seeds for aroma and health benefits. A garnish of cilantro finishes the dish and a side of red onions, lemons and chillies makes it complete. I like eating mine with a simple 'roti' similar to a tortilla. But, paratha, naan or basmati-rice are all good pairing options.
Sauteeing The Onions
The onions should be sauteed just till they're a medium brown. They will continue to cook as the garlic and cumin seeds are sauteed so any more brown than this and they will overcook.
Which Type Of Peas?
As soon as the aroma of the garlic and cumin seeds is released, I add my frozen black eyed peas directly to the pan and saute till they slightly defrost. My personal preference is to use the frozen beans as opposed to the dry variety as they're already hydrated. This shortens cooking and prep time by half. As the canned variety is fully cooked, I find the beans don't absorb all the flavors of the spices and other ingredients properly. This often leaves the curry tasting bland and at times too mushy as we mix and stir.
What Tomatoes To Use
Since black eyed peas are fairly bland, I use tomato paste as opposed to fresh tomatoes to add some bold flavor to the curry. The option to use fresh tomatoes, or tomato puree also exists but the paste adds rich flavor and gives the curry a deep red color without the addition of too much red chili powder.
Cooking The Curry
Once the beans and tomato paste are nicely blended, add all the spices, roast for a few minutes and add 2 cups of water. Cover and cook on low heat till the beans are cooked through. If the water seems to be drying up too fast, add ½ cup more water at a time as needed.
I like my curry to have a little thick gravy as shown below. Some people prefer their lobia very dry. It all depends on personal preference and whether you plan to eat the curry with rice or flat bread. I personally like some gravy even when eating with bread so I can dip the bread in it!
Storing & Reheating The Curry
The curry can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days or frozen for upto 2 weeks. I feel that after the 2 week mark it loses its freshness. When reheating, I always add a little water as the beans tend to absorb whatever liquid is in the dish and dry up without it.
Please don't forget to tag on Instagram, rate the recipe and drop a comment when you try this recipe!
Black Eyed Peas Curry
- 12 oz black eyed peas (FROZEN)
- ¼ cup avocado oil (SEE NOTES)
- 1 onion
- 2 tsp garlic paste
- 1 tsp white cumin seeds
- 3 oz tomato paste (6 TBSPS)
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp red chilli powder
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup cilantro
- Heat the cooking oil in a wide pan
- Add diced onion to it and saute till medium brown
- Add the garlic paste and saute for 30 seconds
- Add the white cumin seeds and saute till you can smell the aroma
- Add the frozen peas directly from the bag and mix well
- Add the tomato paste 2 Tbsps at a time and stir to mix and dissolve
- Add all of the remaining spices, saute for 30 seconds and then add the water
- Stir, cover, reduce the flame to low and cook for about 20-30 minutes (SEE NOTES)
- Once cooked, remove lid, stir and garnish with cilantro.
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