Black-Eyed Peas with Chard and Cilantro Sauce

This bowl of warm, hearty black-eyed peas topped with a flavorful cilantro sauce, is my new favorite winter dish. I have to thank our dear family friend Jill, one of the best home cooks I know, for bringing it to my attention during our last trip to Texas over the holidays. Don’t skip the flavorful cilantro sauce, it really completes the dish. If you don’t like cilantro you can substitute with parsley or other leafy herb of choice. The original recipe is from Epicurious, though I swapped the canned beans for dried and messed with the ingredient ratio a bit.

Black-eyed Peas with Chard and Cilantro Sauce

  • 11 oz (300 g) dried black-eyed peas
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 leeks, washed and finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 2/3 cups (400 ml) chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 unwaxed lemon
  • 14 ounces/400 g bunch Swiss or rainbow chard
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For the cilantro sauce:

  • A large bunch of cilantro
  • 2 green chiles
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 ounce/60 g shelled walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey or maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
8 servings

Wash the black eyed peas and place in a large pot with enough cold water to cover the peas by a few inches. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and allow to simmer for 1 hour, or until just tender, but not falling apart (alternatively, you may cook the peas in a pressure cooker, for 7 minutes from when the steam begins to hiss). Drain peas, reserving a cup of the cooking liquid.) Set aside peas and liquid.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leeks and cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add garlic and paprika and cook for a couple of minutes, until the garlic begins to brown. Add the black-eyed peas with their liquid, the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Grate in the nutmeg, squeeze in the juice of the half lemon, add the squeezed lemon half to the pan, and simmer for 10 minutes or so. Meanwhile, strip the leaves from the chard stalks. Finely slice the stalks and add them to the pan, then finely shred the leaves and put to one side.

Put all the ingredients for the cilantro sauce into a food processor and purée until you have a smooth paste. Season well with salt and pepper.

Once the peas are soft and flavorful and the liquid has reduced to a thick, soup-like consistency, stir in the chard leaves, season well with salt and pepper, and leave to cook for a couple of minutes. Serve warm, in bowls, and spoon over the herb smash.

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