This Nigerian Stewed Black-eyed Peas and Plantains recipe is an exclusive from Joe Yonan’s cookbook Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World’s Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein, with 125 Recipes. Click here to find out where you can purchase a copy of the book.
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Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Washington Post, where he writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column. He is the author of “Cool Beans” (Ten Speed Press, 2020), the editor of “America The Great Cookbook” (Weldon Owen, 2017) and has written two other cookbooks for Ten Speed: “Eat Your Vegetables” (2013) and “Serve Yourself” (2011). The proud queer grandson of Assyrian refugees, he is a member of the Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association.
This is my favorite order at African restaurants, where my husband (who doesn’t like black-eyed peas) always gets chicken. More for me! The first time I made this dish of stewed beans (ewa riro), after scouring the internet and cookbooks for recipes, my version tasted plain compared to what I had eaten, so I turned to Ozoz Sokoh, who writes The Kitchen Butterfly blog from her home in Lagos. She turned me on to grains of selim, also known as African pepper, Negro pepper, and Guinea pepper, which add a mysterious muskiness and more of the depth some traditional recipes accomplish with smoked turkey or dried crawfish. I got an in-person lesson from Oyin Akinkugbe, owner of DC’s ZK Lounge and West African Grill. Her most emphatic points: make sure the beans are cooked until they are very tender and be generous with the palm oil, which lends the dish an earthy flavor and reddish color. Serve with fried ripe plantains (dodo) and rice.
- 1 large yellow or red onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1 1/2 cups dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and drained
- 1 (3 by 5-inch) strip kombu (dried seaweed; optional)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 small tomato, chopped, or 1/2 cup canned pureed tomatoes
- 1/2 to 1 Scotch bonnet chile pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
- 1/4 cup palm oil
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground grains of selim (see Note; optional)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 2 ripe plantains (yellow with plenty of black spots)
- Safflower, grapeseed, or other neutral vegetable oil, for frying
- Combine 1/2 cup of the onion with the black-eyed peas, kombu, and bay leaf in a stovetop or electric pressure cooker and add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to high pressure and cook for 20 minutes, then turn off and let the pressure release naturally. The black-eyed peas should be very soft. Open the pressure cooker and cook on medium-high heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, to reduce the liquid until it is thick and creamy, about 20 minutes.
- While the black-eyed peas are cooking, combine 1 cup of the remaining onion with the bell pepper, tomato, and Scotch bonnet (using more or less depending on your appetite for heat) in a blender and puree until smooth.
- Scoop the palm oil into a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it melts and starts to shimmer, add the remaining 1/2 cup onion and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in the cayenne, grains of selim, if desired, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the pureed bell pepper mixture, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce reduces, darkens, and loses its raw edge, about 20 minutes.
- When the black-eyed peas are ready, add them to the sauce in the skillet with a little water if needed to loosen the mixture. Stir to combine and cook until the flavors meld, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
- To make the plantains, line a plate with paper towels. Peel the plantains by using a paring knife to slash a shallow cut down the length of each plantain, then remove the peel. Cut them in half lengthwise, then into 3/4-inch half-moons or cut on the bias into ¾-inch slices. Sprinkle the plantains with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.
- Pour the oil to a depth of 1/2 inch into a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the plantains (working in batches, if necessary, to avoid overcrowding) and fry until browned on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes, then use tongs to turn them over and cook until browned on the second side, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer them to a paper-towel-lined plate.
- To serve, divide the beans among shallow bowls and tuck the plantains on one side. Serve hot, with rice.
To prepare the grains of selim, toast 8 pods in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant and smoking, about 1 minute per side. Let cool briefly, then break apart by hand, discard the shiny seeds (which are bitter), and grind the pods in a dedicated spice grinder.
Reprinted with permission from Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World’s Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein, with 125 Recipes by Joe Yonan, copyright © 2020. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Photography credit: Aubrie Pick © 2020
(Click on the image above to order your copy)
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