Love these things. Around the house they are known as “Muppet Peas” due to the black, inanimate eyes of the peas that stare blankly at the diner. I think the name became popular after a wine-soaked evening spent reviewing odd translations of names for Chinese dishes. Anyway… out of all of the extremely tasty dishes that Raghavan Iyer chronicles in his book 660 Curries, this is one of my favorites. This curry is very creamy in texture and has a slight sweetness from the coconut. Add some heat from the Serrano chilis and muskiness from the mustard seed and curry leaf and you have a winner.
There is some debate regarding when a recipe becomes “original”. When you consider that most cooks naturally try to express themselves through their cooking and instinctively make changes, the debate seems a little silly. I like to err on the side of respect and simply cite the source of inspiration, assuming that it hasn’t been lost to the fog of history. I think the true boundary is when you, as a cook, know that the creator of the recipe would view your creation as an abomination. This version of the recipe has slight changes from the original that punch up the heat, add a bit of intensity to the spice profile, and also deal with the fact that fresh curry leaves are hard to come by in our area. Hopefully, you will find that it stops short of abomination.
Making this dish is greatly assisted by use of a pressure cooker. If you don’t have one, cook your black-eyed peas using a standard method like this. If you have a pressure cooker, place about 1 cup of black-eyed peas in it, add about 2 1/2 cups of water, the sliced onion, the sliced chilis, and seal. Bring to high pressure and cook for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool until the pressure subsides.
While your peas are cooling, combine the chopped onion, the chopped chilis, cumin seed, turmeric, coconut, and salt in a food processor and process until blended into a coarse paste. This is going to get added to the peas that are hanging out in the pressure cooker.
You should have plenty of time to prepare the infused oil that will finish the dish off after the rest of the ingredients are combined. In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds and heat them until they start to pop like pop-corn. Remove them from the heat and add the dried curry leaves; stir and set aside
To finish this dish off, add the coconut and spice paste to the cooked peas and bring to a low boil. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes to remove moisture and to blend the flavors. If the peas are too moist for your liking, drain some of the fluid off (and remember to add less water to the pressure cooker next time). Cooking after this point in order to remove the moisture will make the peas mushy and indistinct. I don’t like this, but if you like a smoother product, go for it. Once blended, add the mustard/curry infused oil, stir and serve.
This dish is great as either a side or a main dish and perfectly at home as a topping for rice. A common meal for us is some form of chicken, salad, these peas, and some form of flat bread to scoop them up. Let us know what you think. Oh, if you need to find curry leaves, they can be procured for a good price from the fine folk at Mountain Rose Herbs. If you are looking for an herb supplier, it is hard to go wrong with these folks.
- 1 cup dried black-eyed peas
- 2 medium red onions, one cut lengthwise and thinly sliced, one coarsely chopped
- 4 to 6 fresh Serrano chili peppers, half cut lengthwise into strips, one coarsely chopped
- ½ cup of dried coconut, reconstituted by soaking in ¼ near boiling water
- 1½ tsp. salt
- 1½ tsp. cumin seeds
- ½ tsp. ground tumeric
- 2 Tbs. canola oil (or similar high heat oil)
- 1 tsp. black or yellow mustard seeds
- 1 Tbs. dried curry leaves, coarsely chopped (equivalent of 12 medium leaves)
- Cook black-eyed in pressure cooker with sliced onions, sliced chilis, and 2½ cups of water for 20 minutes (high pressure). Remove from heat and allow pressure to dissipate.
- While the peas cool, add chopped onion, chopped chili, turmeric, cumin, coconut and salt to a food processor and process to a coarse paste.
- Prepare infused oil by heating oil in a small skillet over medium high heat. Add mustard seed and cook until they begin to pop. Remove from heat and add dried curry leaf; stir and set aside.
- Stir the coconut/spice paste into the cooked peas and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. If peas are too moist for your taste, either drain fluid off or cook longer to remove moisture.
- Remove from heat and add mustard-infused oil. Serve as you please.