‘Rice and peas’ is familiar to anyone from the Caribbean. Well, Hoppin’ John is pretty much the same thing. The main difference is that in the Southern states of America, we use black-eyed peas. There are many stories about the origins of the name. I like to believe the one reported by Raymond Sokolov, former food editor of The New York Times. He wrote that the dish goes back as far as 1841, when according to oral tradition, it was sold on the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, by a crippled man known as Hoppin’ John.
Hoppin’ John is traditionally served on New Year’s Day with cornbread and greens. The black-eyed peas stand for coins, the greens for dollar bills and the cornbread for gold. With all that symbolic money on the table, the hope is that the wealth will continue throughout the year.
150g dried black-eyed peas or a 400g can of black-
eyed peas, drained
40ml vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
450g easy-cook American-style rice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 litre water
If you are using dried black-eyed peas, put them in a large pan with enough water to cover generously and bring to the boil with a little salt. Simmer for 40-50 minutes, until tender but not mushy, then drain well.
Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and black-eyed peas and fry until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the rice, salt, pepper and turmeric and stir for about a minute, until the rice is coated with the seasoning and appears translucent. Add the water to the pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat a little, and cook, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Try not to disturb the mixture too much. Once the water has all been absorbed and the rice is tender, the dish is ready. Gently fork through the rice, making sure the black-eyed peas are evenly distributed, then serve.