Black Eye Pea Gumbo -boom boom pow!

So up until recently I’d spent a couple of years moonlighting at a market stall making Paella. My Chilean boss there loved to play music on the stereo and couldn’t start the day without a dance. For the first year we listened to the Cat Empire every Saturday and then the second year we got the Black Eyed Peas. My other market friends and I would roll our eyes at each other every time but I tell you what, that stuff sticks. After 2 years working with Patricia, also a Spanish language teacher, I am more fluent in the Black Eyed Peas ( much to my chagrin) than I will ever be in that beautiful tongue.

I was shopping at my local health food store and spotted some black eye beans ( they are called peas in the Americas) and felt inspired. Gumbo came straight to mind.
Gumbo is a stewy soup style concoction from the deep south in the USA that is prepared in a variety of ways. Often it has lots of meats , sausage and seafood in it. Some make it spicy, others make it brothy and others like it real chunky. Either way there are a few basics of this dish that make it gumbo. Capsicums, onions, garlic, and celery form the base with the addition of spices, stock and okra. I was after a good winter vegetable fix, it’s getting chilly in these parts. I’ve just added a little pancetta for flavour.

Let’s get it started!

Black Eyed Pea Gumbo- makes about 2.5 litres

2 sticks celery diced
1 red or green capsicum – deseeded and diced
5 cloves garlic – crushed
1 medium brown onion -diced
1 litre chicken stock
6 okra beans – sliced
200 grams green beans – sliced
100gm pancetta or bacon-chopped
250gm dried black eyed beans – soaked overnight and well drained
100gm barley – soaked overnight and well drained
2 ripe tomatoes
1 bunch continental parsley- washed and chopped.
2 long green chillies -deseeded and sliced- depends how hot the kids will take it. This won’t be spicy.
1 teaspoon fennel seeds -toasted
1 teaspoon cumin seeds – tosted
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
3 bay leaves – dried is fine but fresh is always best. I happily have a bay tree in my backyard.


Using a soup pot or big sauce pan, start by sweating the onions, celery, capsicums, and garlic over a low heat until soft. Next add the spices ( whole spices in tea strainer), pancetta, barley and okra. Continue cooking until fragrant. Next add the peas and stock. Simmer gently until the peas and barley are tender. About 30-40 mins is plenty of time. Add the green beans and chopped tomato, cook until the beans are just soft. Season with a little salt, pepper and the chopped parsley.
Gumbo is traditionally served over rice with some crusty French stick on the side.

The Wash Up
I enjoyed the gumbo a lot. I gotta feeling you will too.It’s a really healthy and hearty way to get a good vegetable fix and was awesome to come home to late at night after work. It’s a pretty tame version compared to other gumbos I’ve eaten so if you need to add spice go ahead. I added a little of my own hot sauce to mine. Kid enjoyed a squeeze of lemon over hers.

What Kid Did – Kid took the seeds out of the capsicum, rinsed the peas and barley off after soaking, picked and washed parsley, picked beans, asked why I’m doing a black eyed pea blog and not a Katy Perry blog ( really kid, where is the love?), stirred, hung out with me, taste tested.

Pump It!
This is a really versatile dish, you can do so much with it.
Add spicy sausage, leftover roast chicken or pork, chillies, prawns, crab, fish or whatever really.
If you want a good vegetarian version leave out the pancetta and replace the stock with veg stock or water.
Vegan baby- as above.
As I mentioned, this dish comes from the Deep South where Creole and Cajun rule.
There is also a heavy French influence in the food and culture.
Cajun is actually a shortening of the word Acadian. The French speaking Acadians were deported by the British in colonial days from Canada to Louisiana.
You could use  any dried bean for this. Peas, carrots, spinach, sweet potato or other vegetables would fit in here too.
Okra – Okra is pretty easy to find. They have a mild spice to them and a gelatinous texture which helps to thicken the soup.They need about 30 mins of cooking to achieve this.
They are also lovely deep fried btw. But what isn’t?

Peace Out!

Yummy Chicken Curry With Baked Coconut Rice


Masaman curry is  a favourite of ours. We have a local Thai T/A up the road that we sometimes turn to in times of need (or times of greed). We always order the Beef Masaman because it is delicious. We’ve ordered it elsewhere and nothing quite rates. I pointed out to kid that one big difference is the potatoes. You can tell when the potatoes have been cooked in the curry (as opposed to boiled in water and added separately) because they take on the flavour and they’ll start to break down ever so slightly to thicken the sauce a little. It really makes a difference.

This curry is a loose interpretation of that. I have replaced beef with chicken and potatoes with pumpkin just because I felt like it. It’s also a good way to get  pumpkin down our little darlings’ throat without any fuss. I’ve added beans too for that ‘green’ element, you could use peas or snow peas or spinach or whatever.

Baked coconut rice is a really easy way to do good rice. Baking means it doesn’t have to sit on the stove top and burn on the bottom. It will cook evenly due to the lack of direct heat. This should work in a rice cooker also but I don’t have one so I’ve never tried. The coconut adds an element of decadence without being too rich. If you can find long-life tetra-pack coconut cream then use that instead. It tastes better. I’ve used tinned because I couldn’t find the other on short notice and it tastes really good anyways.

Chicken and Pumpkin Curry – serves about 4

500gm diced chicken breast – using free range is better on many levels. Use what you can, I won’t judge.
1 small piece of Japanese pumpkin – skinned and diced
250gm green beans – top and tailed , 2-3cm batons.
1 stick celery – sliced thin
1 tablespoon Masaman curry paste – see notes
250ml coconut cream
1/2 bunch coriander – washed and picked
2 lemongrass sticks -bashed and them tied in a not – see notes
1 teaspoon sweet soy.

Add a little oil to a medium sized pot or deep fry pan. Add the chicken, pumpkin and celery and a little salt. Sauté these until the chicken turns white all over. Add the curry paste and stir until all the ingredients are evenly coated the paste becomes fragrant. Add the stock, coconut cream and lemongrass then simmer gently until the chicken is cooked and the pumpkin has JUST started to break down a little and thicken the sauce(like the potatoes in the afore mentioned beef curry). Finish with the soy and coriander, discard the lemongrass. Serve with rice and a wedge of lime. Masaman is traditionally served with chopped peanuts on top and tomato and cucumber on the side. Up to you.

You need 1 cup basmati rice -see notes.
2 cups coconut cream – or 1 cup coconut and cup water (stock will work also).
4 kaffir lime leaves -buy them fresh and freeze what you don’t use.
1 tspn oil.
Put a an oven proof pan over a medium heat. Add the oil, rice and bruised lime leaves. Stir until the rice starts to turn clear and you can smell the lime leaf. Add the liquid and a little salt. Cover well and bake on 160* for 30 mins. Remove from the oven but DON’T remove the lid (foil will work also) for a 15-20 minutes. You need to allow this standing time for any excess moisture to be soaked up by the rice. Remove the lid and fluff gently with a fork.
Baked coconut Rice

What Kid Did
Washed and picked the coriander (she is always doing this it seems), stirred the pot occasionally, had a great time watching me bash the lemongrass with a hammer, picked the beans. Helped with photo shoot. She loved this dinner, especially the coconut rice.

*Pumpkin – Japanese is best for this dish. Buy a small piece already cut from the pumpkin so you can see the colour of it. The flesh should be a deep orange colour.
*Masaman curry paste – I always use one of the Asian brands available from my local fruit shop. Try an Asian supermarket or gourmet deli otherwise. I’m not normally down for brand naming but use Maesri or Mae Ploy. The generic supermarket brands will not give you the curry you deserve. These are brands that my chefs from Sth East Asia trust. You could successfully replace Masaman with yellow, green or red pastes. If you use green, add fresh green basil leaves instead of coriander.
*Swap the chicken for chick peas and replace the chicken stock for veg stock or water to make a great vegetarian option.
*Basmati – Jasmine would do too. Basmati has a better GI level.
*Lemongrass – It is really fibrous and inedible. Lay it out flat on a chopping board and gently tap it until it is soft and pliable. Tie it in a not so it stays together and is easily removed at the end.

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