There are few meals I enjoy more than a good bowl of peas or beans and cornbread. I am very Southern that way. My bowls of peas are not the same as the ones cooked by my Mother or Grandmother. There is no lard, nor hog jowl. They are not overly salted, nor cooked until somewhat mushy. I use a light hand when adding salt, but not when adding freshly ground black pepper. I use a broth base along with a few herbs. But, no matter what approach I take, we have black eyed peas on New Year’s Day come rain or shine. Come sleet or snow, Come hell or high water. I have not missed a New Years Day without my good luck peas for more years than I choose to count. Good meal, good luck.
Recently my good friend, Brad Hunter who is another fellow Southerner, stopped by my house with two bags of Anson Mills Sea Island Red Peas. I knew about them, but had never cooked them. He had been listening to a radio program about these peas on NPR and thought they would be something I would like. He was so right…little treasures to cook for New Year’s Day, nothing better! Sea Island Red Peas are part of the family of field peas, along with lady peas, crowder peas and black eyed peas . Fields peas are just can be found fresh or dried depending on the time of year. Sea Island Red Peas are much smaller than some of their family members, but have that little black eye in every one!
I have over the years shared quite a few recipes for cooking black eyed peas. In 2013 “Black Eyed Peas, Luck and New Rules”, in 2018 “Good Vibes Black Eyed Peas….”and in January of this year “Berbere Seasoned Black-eyed Peas, Greens and Chicken Sausage Soup”. Any of these recipes could just as easily be made with this little pea.
Proscuitto chopped and cooked until crisp adds lots of flavor, but little fat. Olive oil sautéed celery and onions. Low fat chicken, or vegetable broth, for the base along with some water. Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper along with the peas and some kale are all the ingredients you will need. I could not fathom eating this soup without cornbread. I used Anne Byrn’s wonderful recipe with some gruyere and lots of black pepper added and cooked in a Lodge cast-iron mini cake pan to make sublime, crisp corn cakes. A few shakes of hot sauce and and many wishes for good luck in 2020.
Sea Island Red Pea Soup with Gruyere-Black Pepper Corn Cakes
- 14 ozs dried Sea Island Red Peas (or any other dried field pea such as the traditional Black Eyed Pea)rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup chopped prosuitto
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 chopped yellow onion
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- 8 cups low fat chicken broth (of vegetable broth)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt + 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Juice from half a lemon
- 2 to 3 handfuls of baby kale leaves (or any greens you like)
- 1/2 cup veg or canola oil, divided
- 1 3/4 cups white self rising cornmeal
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- Water if needed to thin down corn cake batter
- Hot Sauce for serving
- In a large stockpot cook the chopped prosciutto until most of the fat is rendered over medium-high heat. The meat should be a bit crisp.
- Add the olive oil to the pan and stir in the yellow onion, celery and garlic cloves. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent. Add peas and broth along with the salt, pepper and lemon juice. Bring to a low boil. Turn heat down to medium-low and cook until peas are softened, but still holding their shape. This might take an hour or more depending on your stove and whatever peas you end up using. At this point add kale to the pot and stir into the peas. Cook another 12-20 minutes on low while you make the corn cakes.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle a teaspoon of the vegetable oil into each “cake” space in the Lodge pan. If you are using a regular skillet then add 1/4 cup oil to the skillet. Place pan in the oven and leave to heat until the oil is at the “sizzle” stage.
- While the oven and pan are heating, mix together the cornmeal, flour, cheese and freshly ground black pepper. Pour in the buttermilk and remaining vegetable oil and mix well.
- Check oil in pan to make sure it is really hot. Divide batter evenly between the cast iron mini cake pan openings to about half full, or pour all the batter into a regular cast iron skillet. Bake for about 15 minutes or until corn cakes are deep brown and crisp on the outside. If you use the small cake pan then use any batter you might have left. This recipe will make about 10 mini corn cakes or one twelve inch skillet of cornbread.
- Serve soup with corncake and hot sauce alongside. Happy New Year and Good Luck.