Ghanaian stew, kind of

I spent an extremely long time the other day looking for a black-eyed peas recipe that wasn’t lobia or hoppin’ john. I was first led to Red-Red by a Whole Foods post, and then finally I found what seemed like a more legit recipe. (I love that The Spice Island stresses how salty this should be. They know what’s up.) Red-Red is a Ghanaian stew—red for the red palm oil (which I substituted because I couldn’t find any, but then I remembered I could have just gone to one of the West African markets in Harlem and found some, probably) and red for the tomatoes. That’s all I can tell you about it, though; I could not possibly know less about Ghanaian food. Or Ghana, actually. Though I do know multiple people who have lived there.

This recipe has tons of onions, tons of tomatoes (real ones! not canned!), and tons of hot peppers. I used jalapeños rather than habaneros, both because habaneros scare me and because I couldn’t find any. (Well, I found something that looked exactly like habaneros, but it had a different name, and I didn’t want to accidentally feed myself something on the same heat spectrum as Scotch bonnets.) I am now glad about this because my hands are still burning from the jalapeños, and I chopped them more than twelve hours ago. I think I have skin problems. Or maybe I burned myself on, like, a pot or something.

OK, I forgot to mention the black-eyed peas business. I knew I had to soak them for three or four hours, if not overnight, so I put them in to soak and went about my day. Then I drained them, rinsed them, and added more water and put them on the stove. I looked at my previous blog post to see how long they should cook, but it was very unhelpful. I can now sympathize with all of you. (I ended up cooking them for about 50 minutes. When they were done, the liquid was all black. I was freaked out; I assume that if this had happened to me before, I would have recorded it. It almost seemed like they were white beans that someone had drawn a black eye on and the ink had all washed off. But … I mean … that probably didn’t happen?)

After they were done—the timing was a bit off because I was doing all this during/after dinner—I chopped my enormous quantities of onions, then tomatoes. Ugh, and jalapeños.

Beautiful lovely tomatoes, and evil jalapeños. (From my parents’ garden and a farmers’ market.)

Then I put a bunch of dried shrimp (I was aiming to end up with 2 tsp, but I didn’t really measure) into my food processor and ground them (it has a spice-grinding setting; it doesn’t work very well on actual spices). They became a sort of shrimp powder, though in slightly larger bits than I wanted.

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This is harder than I thought it would be

Wow, so dramatic. The title of this post refers to making more Hare Krishna food: lobia, or black-eyed peas in tamarind-ginger sauce. (Sorry, I don’t know how to link to a particular part of the page. Help?) I’m in a food rut and nothing sounded good except more interesting bean-based dishes, so that’s what I did (and a vegetable recipe that I hope will be better than last week’s—last week’s turned into such a debacle that I couldn’t even post about it).

I had this weird idea that I had seen tamarind paste in my grocery store before, but of course I was wrong and it was guava paste. I ended up buying a box of whole tamarinds, and then discovered I probably shouldn’t have bought sweet ones, but I didn’t know there were different types of tamarinds. So this dish probably didn’t come out the way it was supposed to.

I own a lot of black-eyed peas now. I’m not sure if I like them.

That was step one in the unexpected difficulties. I soaked my black-eyed peas overnight and, the next day, boiled the water they were in and then added some ginger, turmeric, and chili powder. I then left it to cook for a while.

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