So up until recently I’d spent a couple of years moonlighting at a market stall making Paella. My Chilean boss there loved to play music on the stereo and couldn’t start the day without a dance. For the first year we listened to the Cat Empire every Saturday and then the second year we got the Black Eyed Peas. My other market friends and I would roll our eyes at each other every time but I tell you what, that stuff sticks. After 2 years working with Patricia, also a Spanish language teacher, I am more fluent in the Black Eyed Peas ( much to my chagrin) than I will ever be in that beautiful tongue.
I was shopping at my local health food store and spotted some black eye beans ( they are called peas in the Americas) and felt inspired. Gumbo came straight to mind.
Gumbo is a stewy soup style concoction from the deep south in the USA that is prepared in a variety of ways. Often it has lots of meats , sausage and seafood in it. Some make it spicy, others make it brothy and others like it real chunky. Either way there are a few basics of this dish that make it gumbo. Capsicums, onions, garlic, and celery form the base with the addition of spices, stock and okra. I was after a good winter vegetable fix, it’s getting chilly in these parts. I’ve just added a little pancetta for flavour.
Let’s get it started!
Black Eyed Pea Gumbo- makes about 2.5 litres
2 sticks celery diced
1 red or green capsicum – deseeded and diced
5 cloves garlic – crushed
1 medium brown onion -diced
1 litre chicken stock
6 okra beans – sliced
200 grams green beans – sliced
100gm pancetta or bacon-chopped
250gm dried black eyed beans – soaked overnight and well drained
100gm barley – soaked overnight and well drained
2 ripe tomatoes
1 bunch continental parsley- washed and chopped.
2 long green chillies -deseeded and sliced- depends how hot the kids will take it. This won’t be spicy.
1 teaspoon fennel seeds -toasted
1 teaspoon cumin seeds – tosted
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
3 bay leaves – dried is fine but fresh is always best. I happily have a bay tree in my backyard.
Using a soup pot or big sauce pan, start by sweating the onions, celery, capsicums, and garlic over a low heat until soft. Next add the spices ( whole spices in tea strainer), pancetta, barley and okra. Continue cooking until fragrant. Next add the peas and stock. Simmer gently until the peas and barley are tender. About 30-40 mins is plenty of time. Add the green beans and chopped tomato, cook until the beans are just soft. Season with a little salt, pepper and the chopped parsley.
Gumbo is traditionally served over rice with some crusty French stick on the side.
The Wash Up
I enjoyed the gumbo a lot. I gotta feeling you will too.It’s a really healthy and hearty way to get a good vegetable fix and was awesome to come home to late at night after work. It’s a pretty tame version compared to other gumbos I’ve eaten so if you need to add spice go ahead. I added a little of my own hot sauce to mine. Kid enjoyed a squeeze of lemon over hers.
What Kid Did – Kid took the seeds out of the capsicum, rinsed the peas and barley off after soaking, picked and washed parsley, picked beans, asked why I’m doing a black eyed pea blog and not a Katy Perry blog ( really kid, where is the love?), stirred, hung out with me, taste tested.
This is a really versatile dish, you can do so much with it.
Add spicy sausage, leftover roast chicken or pork, chillies, prawns, crab, fish or whatever really.
If you want a good vegetarian version leave out the pancetta and replace the stock with veg stock or water.
Vegan baby- as above.
As I mentioned, this dish comes from the Deep South where Creole and Cajun rule.
There is also a heavy French influence in the food and culture.
Cajun is actually a shortening of the word Acadian. The French speaking Acadians were deported by the British in colonial days from Canada to Louisiana.
You could use any dried bean for this. Peas, carrots, spinach, sweet potato or other vegetables would fit in here too.
Okra – Okra is pretty easy to find. They have a mild spice to them and a gelatinous texture which helps to thicken the soup.They need about 30 mins of cooking to achieve this.
They are also lovely deep fried btw. But what isn’t?