Black Eyed Pea Soup For Luck and Greatness

black eyed peas

Every year I make a slightly different version of this soup. It’s always got to have black eyed peas, of course, because eating those delightful little babies on New Year’s Day brings you prosperity and luck in the whole long year to come.

Because duh. That’s a known fact. That’s just science. But the rest of the ingredients? They tend to be more of an improvisation.

As is, ultimately, the whole long year to come.

I’ve been eating much, much healthier this last little while than I have in my whole life — so much so that I’ve lost 90 pounds since July 2012 — so this year’s version is considerably lighter than the one I made last year. No salt pork, no bacon, a bit less olive oil than before. But it’s no less delicious.

Promise.

And hey, if it makes you feel any better, I totally wolfed down a massive bowl of this soup today on this fine, sunny New Year’s Day with a side of the most amazing grilled cheese sandwich, made with crusty rye bread and some sharp, sharp cheese.

Because cheese is good luck, too. Everybody knows that.

Black Eyed Pea Soup 2014

Serves 6

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 cups onion, diced

2 cups purple topped turnip, diced

1/2 cup uncooked brown rice

7 cups chicken or veg stock

Salt and pepper

1 15 oz can cooked black eyed peas, rinsed

6 Tbs fresh lemon juice

1 pinch ground cumin

1 bay leaf

 

Saute the onion in the oil until translucent. Add the turnip, broth, rice, salt, pepper, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 35 minutes. Add the black beans. Simmer for another 10 minutes, until the rice is cooked. Add the lemon juice and cumin and stir well. Remove the bay leaf and serve hot, preferably with some amazing crusty bread and some sharp, sharp cheese.

Adapted from the excellent, luminous, and utterly un-put-downable cookbook Twelve Months of Monastery Soups.

How to Coddle an Egg

So I’m a big fan of coddled eggs. I eat them for breakfast all winter long, which means that I occasionally rhapsodize — at length and out loud — about how truly spectacular a thing coddled eggs are, which means that my friends can often be found walking around looking deeply confused when they’re with me.

I mean, that would be the case anyway. But coddled eggs are a thing. A truly spectacular thing. Trust me!

Or don’t! Why should you take my word for it? You should experience the awesomeness of a coddled egg yourself. And then you will know.

Hey, trust but verify. Right?

How to Make a Coddled Egg

A coddled egg is basically just a soft boiled egg, but one that’s been cooked in a special, egg-shaped type of porcelain container rather than in its own shell. This makes it hella easier to eat, and also allows you to have pretty little egg coddlers lying around in your cupboards, which is a thing that gives me great joy.

I mean, look at this one. So pretty!

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It’s even a Royal Worcester!

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We’re all friends here, so I know we all watch Antiques Roadshow (UK version), so  we all know right off the bat that this makes this guy really happy.

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Henry Sandon, Porcelain Expert, Royal Worcester Historian, and Chortler Extraordinaire

And since you also watch Antiques Roadshow (UK), and you’re so very much like me, you will now read the rest of this post with his adorable little chortling voice in your head. Yes sirree. That is exactly what you will do.

So where can you get your hands on your very own egg coddler? Well, I was incredibly lucky and a friend of mine sent me this amazing egg coddler, totally out of the blue, as an unexpected gift, because people you meet on the internet are awesome. But you can find your own at a flea market or an antique shop, or you could even just pop on over to Etsy and see what they’ve got for egg coddlers these days. Chances are, they’ve got something good.

To get started, just open up the little screw-top lid.

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Now crack an egg and drop that sucker inside.

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Fasten the lid back on, nice and snug.

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Bring a pot of water to boil, making sure that the water will completely cover the egg coddler once it’s boiling. You don’t need to cover the little handle on top of the lid, but you do want the whole vessel to be submerged.

(You probably know what a pot of boiling water looks like, but I’m going to go with the flow and show you a picture of that, too.)

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Once the water is at a full, rolling boil, set the egg coddler upright in the pot. You can drop it in (carefully) with your fingers holding on to the handle on top of the lid, or just use a pair of tongs to lower it into place.

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Remember to make sure that the water completely covers the chamber of the coddler. You want that entire egg to be surrounded by hot water, not just the bottom half or two thirds.

Now set your timer (do NOT leave this part to chance) to exactly 7 minutes. I actually like to set my timer for exactly 7 minutes and 14 seconds, but that’s just because 7/14 is my birthday and I’m a total little princess like that. Experiment a little (HINT: This means you get to eat a lot of coddled eggs, in the name of SCIENCE) to find the time that gives you the kind of egg you like best. I like a very runny yolk with practically no runniness at all left to the white, and 7:14 does that for me almost every time. If anything, I occasionally have to give it another 10 seconds rolling around on its side, just to finish off that last little bit of runny whites on the top.

But not this time. Because this egg is PERFECT.

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OMG

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Will you just look at that perfect egg!

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SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW.

sandon elated

For the eating of the egg, I like to just toss a little kosher salt in there and then nom nom nom the night away. But some folks need to get all fancy with their coddled eggs. For instance, you could line the inside of the coddler with little slices of ham or cheese before you drop the egg in, or you could sprinkle some finely diced bell peppers or shredded parmesan on top. Basically anything you like to eat with your regular eggs, you can incorporate somehow into your coddled egg. Just keep in mind that there’s not too much room in there for anything besides one whole, glorious, spectacular egg.

And what else do you really need? Honestly. I ask you.

So if you like soft boiled eggs, or runny eggs in any form, get yourself a coddled egg one of these days. It requires a little bit of equipment, but egg coddlers are relatively cheap and, as mentioned above, they look swell in your open shelving. Like you’re a real proper lady or something. And isn’t that all any of us really want?

Personally, I think coddled eggs are a huge improvement over soft boiled eggs the way I used to eat them, which was over toast, just like Mom used to make for me when I was sick. Only the toast soaks up all that amazing runny yolk way too fast, and I could never get the bread-to-egg ratio just right. This cuts out that messy little complication and simplifies the whole ordeal.

Now it’s just me and my egg. An egg and her girl. The egg and I. I’ll stop.

Black Eyed Pea Soup

black eyed lady soup

It was my college girlfriend Tekla who first introduced me to the concept of eating lucky food on New Year’s Day. She was a farm girl from Connecticut, and she had very fixed and radical ideas about how one should comport oneself in the kitchen. And pretty much everywhere else. But we won’t go into that right now.

She was, in fact, an excellent cook.

It was Tekla who first inspired me to become a vegetarian, Tekla who introduced me to the Moosewood Cookbook, Tekla who brewed up mulled cider in winter, lemonade in summer, and gallons and gallons of tea all the year long.

As I was an impressionable young thing at the time, I went along for the ride.

She lived in a second floor apartment in Northampton, on a quiet side street about a mile out from the center of town. It was an easy, though a generally snowy and cold walk from the bus stop at the Academy of Music to her house, past a little road called Olive Street which we invariably called Oh! Live! Streetto her house on Harlow Street, which we inevitably referred to as the street of harlots.

Ah, youth.

Winters were colder then, as I’m sure many of you will recall. But it never took long to warm up after an icy walk from town to her house, where the fireplace was always lit and the kettle nearly always on the boil. She had two housemates, both fairly older than us, both just as fond of tea. And the pantry was always well stocked.

Northampton itself had been a culinary eye-opener for me, even before I’d met Tekla. Northampton gave me my first taste of basil pesto, roasted red peppers, really good bread, homemade pasta, gourmet pizza, a real tamale. And while we’d try to cook something creative out of Moosewood or The Silver Palate, more often than not we’d end up trundling back downtown for a slice, or a burrito, or whatever a college student’s budget might allow.

That was the thing about those vegetarian cookbooks: You never had on hand the things they seemed to take for granted you would. Even Tekla’s well stocked pantry tended to be bereft of the sorts of arcane ingredients those recipes called for. Ersatz staples, we called them. Arrant knaves of the kitchen.

So on nights when it was too cold to venture forth into the night, or our wallets wouldn’t stand for it, or we just wanted to stay inside by the fire, it was most often a big pot of soup that would get summoned together from whatever she had lying around.

The making of soup follows a basic, reliable pattern. Oh, sure, there are some fancier soups that might call for fancier methods, but in general you can get some fairly spectacular results with just the usual drill of the same simple steps.

These are:

  1. Saute a mixture of onions, carrots, and celery in some olive oil or butter. Insist on referring to this mixture as mirepoix at least once while you are making it, just to remind yourself and your guest that you love obscure words of great specificity.
  2. Add stock and the main event of the soup, whatever that might be. We were vegetarians, so this was usually beans or rice, plus some seasonally appropriate vegetable to act as the star. Very good mushrooms, for instance. But these days (as a lapsed vegetarian, as I have lapsed in so many things), it’s just as likely to be cubed chicken meat or shredded cooked turkey.
  3. Bring to a boil, then simmer until you can’t stand it any more. Season to taste and serve.

The soup I made last night follows the same basic plan.

Apparently it’s customary for black eyed peas and kale to represent prosperity in the new year, but as I was raised to consider prosperity to be rather suspect a thing to have, or even yearn for, I tend to think instead in terms of luck. I’ve since overcome my aversion to prosperity as a worthy goal, but I still believe that it’s best to be vague about your wishes and allow fortune to decide the proper course for your blessings to take. After all, if I’d gotten what I was wishing for ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago, I’d be in a right pickle now, and no mistake.

It wouldn’t be right to call this recipe “Tekla’s Black Eyed Pea Soup” or anything of the sort, since I don’t have any scraps of paper with her scrawl on it, specifying ingredients and cooking times and serving sizes. But for obvious reasons, I’m still going to claim her as this creation’s most powerful influence. After all, if it weren’t for her, I might never have known that I should be eating certain foods on certain days of the year to ensure a healthy, happy, and prosperous new year.

I’m in her debt for one or two other skills, but we’ll leave it at soup for now.

Black Eyed Pea Soup

(to bring luck and/or prosperity in the New Year)

Ingredients

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

3-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 1/2 c. onion, diced

3 slices (about 2.5 oz) bacon, sliced into ~1 cm wide pieces

1 c. carrots, diced

1 c. celery, diced

1 c. green pepper, diced

1 bunch kale, washed, stems removed, and thinly sliced

32 oz (two cans) cooked black eyed peas

64 oz chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Saute garlic and onions in olive oil over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add bacon and cook until bacon is crispy. Add carrots, celery, and green pepper and cook for about 5-8 minutes longer, until the carrots are just tender. Add beans and stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes. Skim any foam from top of soup. Stir in kale. Simmer another 10 minutes. Season to taste and serve. Makes 8 servings of about 2 cups each.