In the Southern US, Hoppin' John is a traditional New Year's day dish. Eating it is supposed to bring good fortune for the rest of the year. There are hundreds of different recipes, but the basic dish is black-eyed peas and rice.

No one is sure what the name means. There are a number of theories, but none of them seem likely enough to be worth recounting here. The dish itself was probably first cooked by African slaves on the plantations of the old South.

I'm not going to give exact measures; the recipe is very flexible and you may do with it as you wish. It's almost impossible to mess up, as long as you get the rice and peas well cooked.

  • 1 cup black-eyed peas
  • 1 cup rice (or more, if you like).
  • Onion, cut up.
  • Bacon, or a cracked ham or beef bone.
  • Salt. Otherwise it's not really Southern cooking.
  • The spices, additives, or flavourings of your choice, which may include peppers, sausage, bay leaf, thyme, cloves, garlic, etc.

Wash the peas thoroughly, picking out any bad peas or small rocks. Place them in water and soak them overnight .

Bring a pot of water to a boil and then add the peas. (Some recipes call for you to use the same water that you soaked the peas in, but you still are supposed to strain the peas out, boil the water, and then add them in again.) If you are using a bay leaf or a bone for flavouring, add it in now. Let the peas simmer for 45 minutes. They should be soft but not mushy.

While cooking the peas, fry your meat and onions.

When the beans are done, check to make sure there is enough water in the peas (you probably want at least 2 1/2 cups), and add in the remaining ingredients. (You may want to save the fried bacon until the very end, for some added crunchiness, but that's unnecessarily fancy).

Stir well and let simmer for another 15-20 minutes. It's done when the rice is done.

This should serve about four people, but it's easy to bulk up by adding more peas, rice and/or sausage.

If you want vegetarian Hoppin' John, leave out the meat, and use some oil to fry up your onion. You can add various faux meats or other vegetables for more flavour; I recommend peppers for any vegetarian Hoppin' John.

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