The tradition of eating beans or a curry on bread is one that the British brought to India — and one that my family adopted with great fanfare. When fresh roti was unavailable, we threw dal, beans, even vegetable or meat curries on bread that was sometimes toasted, other times kept soft to absorb the sauce.The dish makes for a particularly good breakfast. So why not try curried black-eyed peas with eggs and toast on New Year’s Day? My vegetarian-friendly recipe skips the bacon and adds cumin seeds to pop some flavor into the beans. And I’d recommend making the beans a day or two ahead — curries are always best when all the flavors have had a chance to mellow and marry.In place of black-eyed peas, you could also use fresh purple hull peas, which are available at Gundermann Farms at the Urban Harvest farmers market on Saturday (2752 Buffalo Speedway). Hull peas are very similar in taste, and they cook faster but are even more delicious. Pick up a dozen eggs while you’re at the market, too — using the farm-fresh variety makes a big difference.
1 cup black-eyed peas, dry
6 tablespoons olive oil or ghee
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cup minced onions
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon grated unpeeled ginger
1 teaspoon chili powder (or black pepper)
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes (or 2 cups fresh)
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
4 slices of your favorite bread
4 large eggs, fresh as possible
1 tablespoon honey
A few mint springs
Soak the beans for 3-4 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Drain and boil them with roughly double the amount of water in a covered stockpot until soft and tender. While boiling, if any scum or brownish foam rises to the top, discard with a slotted spoon. The cooking should take 45 minutes to an hour, maybe more if the beans are old. There should be some liquid left but no more than approximately 2 cups. Once cooked, try to not discard any of the water — this is where most of the nutrition lies.
In a frying pan, heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil or ghee just shy of smoking and add the cumin seeds. They will pop and sizzle, and within a few seconds, add the minced onions and garlic. Cook at medium to high heat, stirring frequently until the onions have a caramel color, about 15-20 minutes. If the pan becomes too hot during this process, simply add a tablespoon of water or two; this will also pull up the caramelized pieces from the pan.
Add the ginger, chili powder, turmeric and tomatoes. Cook this mixture on low heat for 5-8 minutes, then add to the black-eyed peas. Bring the combined mixture to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover the stockpot and cook for another 15-20 minutes. The masala should incorporate with the peas. If there is too much liquid, uncover the pot and reduce until the peas are in a thick sauce. Finish the peas with 2 tablespoons of olive oil or ghee and cardamom.
To boil the eggs, place them in a stockpot with enough water to cover them. Turn the heat on and as soon as the water is hot, let it boil vigorously for a minute then turn the heat off. Let the eggs sit in the water for another 45 minutes to an hour. Remove the eggs and peel them. They should feel soft on the inside.
When ready to eat, toast the bread and spread warm beans on top. Slice the eggs in half and place one on each piece of toast and repeat with the remaining toast. Season the eggs with a sprinkle of salt and chili powder or black pepper. Drizzle a little bit of honey on each piece of toast, sprinkle the mint sprigs over and serve immediately.
ideas / variations
Substitute olive oil for ghee for a heartier taste however this would be best served warm.
When popping the seeds, be careful not to burn them. This makes them bitter in flavor.
Any kind of onions will work – red, white or yellow. Even leeks or shallots will do.
No mustard seeds? No problem. Substitute them with cumin seeds, coriander seeds or fennel seeds.