April 29th 2012

Soul food basics, plus Hoppin’ John recipe

If you’re feeling like doing some experimenting in the kitchen, step outside the general confines of our basic “ethnic” choices. Sure, we can be inspired easily by Italian, Mexican, and Indian meals, but what about reaching down down to the United States?

Enter Soul food, a cuisine that is based on the traditional foods of African Americans.

For a recipe idea and some facts about the food, keep reading.

What does soul food mean?

Soul food is used to define the type of cuisine associated with African American culture in the southern United States. The term came about the mid-1960s, and the word “soul” was often used to describe different aspects of African American culture.

What exactly is soul food?

When making soul food, you’re thinking about getting right now into the soul, loaded with comforting favourites that were created by slaves who needed to refuel after a hard day. Think cracklins, chitterlings, chicken fried steak, cornbread, johnny cakes, and hoppin’ John, just to name a few.

Common ingredients included chicken liver and gizzards, ham hocks, shrimp, black-eyed peas, cabbage, lima beans, green beans, sweet potatoes, and cornmeal.

Like any classic cuisine, the best recipes are the ones that are passed down–verbally–from generation to generation. Luckily, many folks have started to write these down, though those special touches are often neglected (you know, just like grandma used to make).

If you’re searching for some soul food, here’s an easy and delicious recipe to start you off.

Hoppin’ John

Classic, easy to put together, and oh-so-delicious, this recipe is a simple way to get started into soul food. Be sure to plan ahead and soak the black-eyed peas overnight.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large ham hock
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
1 quart good-quality chicken stock or broth
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste
Water, as needed
1/4 cup finely chopped green onion
3 to 4 cups cooked white or brown rice

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the ham hock and sear it on all sides, until nicely browned, just a couple minutes per side. Add the chopped onion, celery, and green pepper. Cook for about 4 to 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook until garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes longer.

Add the black-eyed peas, chicken stock, bay leaf, thyme, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, until the peas are creamy and tender, stirring occasionally, adding additional water if necessary (you can also add additional chicken stock).

Once the peas are tender, adjust the seasonings to taste. Stir in the green onion. Serve warm over rice.


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Andrew's Biography

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Andrew loves art and design, and pursues his studies in his final year at the Ontario College of Art and Design. He loves seeking out new artists and giving them their dues, and in his spare time, focuses on his own abstract sculpture.