Two Fat Ladies’ Hoppin’ John
While we’re moving in to warmer weather and heavier dishes are increasingly relegated to the sidelines until the fall, there are a few that are truly appropriate year-‘round. A great example of this is Hoppin’ John, which is a traditional Southern American recipe (although, granted, southerners aren’t necessarily noted for light or healthy cuisine at the best of times). This is a recipe we took from a Two Fat Ladies (again, another hint) cookbook, which can be found with disappointing regularity at thrift stores. Despite having been enormously popular in the late 90s, after the death of one of the Ladies, they have unfortunately been largely forgotten, which is a shame as the show and the books are even today a blast. The inspiration for this dish came from having flipped through the book idly and noticing the use of black-eyed peas, of which we had a container of dried ones kicking around, so it became a solid dinner.
So to start, soak 8 ounces of peas overnight in cold water.
The next day, strain the beans, put in a saucepan, cover with cold water, add a teaspoon of salt, bring to a boil and keep at a full boil for ten minutes, then reduce to a simmer and simmer for an hour.
Meanwhile, fry 8 ounces of bacon or pancetta, cut into lardons, and set aside. Keep the fat! Then, fry 1 finely chopped onion and 2 crushed cloves of garlic in the fat until soft. Then add (and this is the biggest pain of the whole recipe) 4 tomatoes that have been peeled, seeded, and chopped (although to tell the truth, I’m not sure I’d bother with all that again, but hey, that’s what they asked for, so that’s what I did). Fry for one minute.
Then, once the peas are done, add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, bacon/pancetta, a bay leaf, pinch of thyme, 2 teaspoons of cayenne powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a further 20 minutes until the water is all absorbed (this was a bit of an issue for me, as I think I put too much in - make sure it’s enough to just cover the beans when you start).
And, for a final step, add 6 ounces of cooked rice. The recipe called for long-grain white rice, but I used brown for a bit of extra flavour. It was great.
Now, this can be a main dish or a side. We did it as a side for some beautiful smoked pork chops from Sanagan’s which we just pan-fried until warmed through and lightly browned. Beautiful.