Black-eyed peas, called cow peas or lobia (Hindi) are a very common source of vegetarian protein and used extensively in Indian cooking. One cup of cooked black eyed peas is equivalent to about 13g of protein. They are also high in fiber and other essential minerals like potassium and iron, contributing to important health benefits. The high fiber content ensures a feeling of fullness and you won’t feel like snacking between meals.

Even though the name suggests that they are pea-like, black-eyed peas are actually a bean. Thus, like all lentils and beans, black-eyed peas require a longer cooking time. You can reduce the cooking time by pre-soaking the black-eyed peas for 8 – 12 hours. After that, its relatively easy to cook them. Most supermarkets sell frozen black-eyed peas that are easier to cook, so try that option if you don’t have the time to soak the beans. This bean tastes best when cooked to a soft consistency, so that when you bite into them, they melt into a silk smooth mush. In this recipe, I used frozen black-eyed peas, but they still need longer cooking times to ensure that the peas are soft and well done.

This recipe is great for a picnic and will travel well. Pack in a few naans or rotis and you have an easy meal which is also very filling and satisfying. I am a fan of black-eyed peas masala and rotis for my lunch box and regularly prepare it for weekday lunches at work. If you look closely at the featured image on this post, you will recognize it as a lunch box. Steel lunch boxes like that are what I grew up taking to school every day. My lunch would consists of two rotis with a side of a spiced vegetable or lentil dish, or a rice dish with home-made unflavored yogurt on the side. Sometimes I exchanged my entire lunch box with a friend’s lunch box because each of us thought the other one had a better lunch! Thanks to my hard-working parents, none of my food was prepackaged or thawed in the microwave or bought prepared from a store. My parents woke up early to prepare my breakfast and lunch for me in spite of their own busy schedules. Good times.

Coming back to the recipe, it will take time and is not a fast dish to make. The most important step in this dish is to ensure that the onions are well caramelized and browned before you proceed to the next steps. The fenugreek leaves mentioned in this recipe are optional but add a light tone of bitterness to the dish.

Ensure that you have cooked the beans until they are soft and falling apart.

Cooking time: 1 hr
Serves: 4-6

2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 generous cups diced onions, about 1 large onion
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp grated garlic
1/2 cup frozen fenugreek leaves or 1 cup chopped fresh fenugreek leaves
1 tbsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
4 cups frozen or pre-cooked black eyed peas
3-4 cups water
1/2 cup diced tomatoes, canned or fresh

Heat oil in pan, toss in the cumin and diced onions. Add about 1/2 tsp of salt. Mix well, lower the heat and cook covered, for about 15 mins. Stir every 5 minutes to prevent scorching. At the end of 15 minutes, deglaze the pan with about 1/2 cup of water. Increase heat to medium, and cook another 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring often until the onions are very well caramelized and soft.

Now add the grated ginger and garlic, fenugreek leaves. Stir to combine and cook until the raw smell of garlic is gone. Add in the coriander powder, red chili powder and turmeric. Mix everything and gently toast the spices. Now add the black-eyed peas, diced tomatoes and about 3 cups water. Lower the heat and cook covered for another 10-15 minutes until the black-eyed peas are soft and some of them are falling apart. If you prefer a more homogenous texture to the dish, mash some of the black-eyed peas using the back of a wooden spoon.

Serve hot as a side dish with rice, quinoa or any type of flat bread like rotis or naan.