Hoppin' John is the Southern United States' version of the rice and beans dish traditional throughout the Caribbean. It consists of field peas or crowder peas (black-eyed peas) and rice, with chopped onion and sliced bacon or sausages, ham hock or fatback bacon.
Throughout the coastal South, eating Hoppin' John on New Year's Day is thought to bring a year filled with luck, and it's eaten by everyone. The peas, or beans with little black "eyes," signify coins. Fill your plate with them and your cup will run over, as in the 23rd Psalm, perhaps. Collard greens along with this dish are supposed to also add to the wealth since they are the colour of money. On the day after New Year's Day, leftover "Hoppin' John" is called "Skippin' Jenny", and further demonstrates one's frugality, bringing an even better chance of prosperity in the New Year, it is hoped.
- 2 cups dried black-eyed peas (about 340 g)
- 2 cans of black-eyed peas, drained
- 450 g (1 lb) lean slab bacon
- 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 small red bell pepper, de-seeded and sliced
- ½ teaspoon crushed chili flakes
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon sea salt or celery salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cups water or chicken stock
- 2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice. Basmati rice is fine for this, though probably not authentic!
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- If using canned black eyed peas, start at step 5
- Sort the peas and remove grit etc.
- Soak in cold water, rinse and drain, repeat a few times
- In a large pot, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes, remove from heat and allow to stand for 2 hours. Drain and rinse again.
- To a large pot, add the soaked black-eyed peas, the ham hock, the chopped onion and all of the herbs and spices. If using spicy sausages I would wait for 1 hour before adding them
- Add water or chicken stock and bring to the boil
- Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours or until the peas are tender. (do not boil as the beans will burst)
- Remove bacon, ham hock or sausages and cut into bite-sized pieces
- As with all rice, rinse for a minute, in a sieve under cold running water to remove any excess starch
- Return meat to pot. Stir in rice, cover, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed
- Season to taste with salt and pepper
If you like a bit more gravy then reduce the amount of rice. You could of course increase the amount of stock but you would need to adjust the seasoning as well.
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