Lubiya (Middle Eastern Black Eyed Pea Stew)

I’ve been in the mood to branch out a little with my cooking lately.  I’ve spent quite a bit of time in my local spice shop, tasting, smelling, discussing, and being inspired.  If you are in Boulder and haven’t yet made it into Savory Spice on Broadway off the Pearl Street Mall, you should really stop in someday when you have a little time to browse.  I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing that many different cultures, so this is my way of connecting to people in other areas of the world and I find that so many of their staple foods have a very strong appeal for me.

I haven’t found a ton of information on this particular dish, but from what I can gather, it’s a Jewish dish with the taste of the Middle East.  For some reason, black eyed peas represent abundance and wealth in many cultures and are popular around the new year, so this is a dish you might find at certain tables at Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.  I love the symbolism of purity, abundance, and new beginnings, so I think it’s a nice dish to eat any time of year.  Plus, I think it’s delicious, especially accompanied with some Za’atar Flatbread.  Just like some of us spread butter on our bread or dip it in good olive oil, people inhabiting the Middle East often dip their pita in olive oil mixed with a special spice blend called za’atar.  My blend is made of sumac, which has a deliciously acidic taste, sesame seeds, cumin, thyme, and oregano, and a few other herbs, but I’m imagining that different regions and households throughout the Middle East have their own personal blends.  Anyway, it is really, really yummy.  I wasn’t sure when I bought it, because cumin can be overpowering to me at times, but za’atar is addicting.  I baked some breads, brushing them with olive oil infused with za’atar about halfway into baking, then again when they came out of the oven.  You could bake your own, or brush it on some lightly toasted pita.  Once you have the Za’atar around, you might want to sprinkle it on your roasted veggies, eggs, popcorn…

Both beans and rice can benefit from soaking – this is mildly controversial, but I’m giving you my opinion based on my experience.  About 8 hours before you plan to cook the Lubiya, soak them in separate bowls in enough water to cover by an inch or two.  You can also add a strip of kombu to the soaking water of the black eyed peas.

  • 1 cup dried black eyed peas, soaked overnight
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, cleaned and sliced
  • 4-5 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sumac, if available (if not, use add lemon juice when beans are soft; see next ingredient section)
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 fresh or roasted chili pepper, minced – heat to your liking – or cayenne or red pepper flakes to taste
  • 6-8 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 cup strained tomatoes
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste (if sumac is not available)
  • a dash of cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • a dash of coconut aminos if you have it
  • 1 cup brown basmati rice, preferably soaked overnight
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • pinch of saffron (optional, but will turn the rice a gorgeous orange color)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • water to cook (1 3/4 cups water if rice was soaked)

When you are ready to cook your Lubiya, drain and rinse your black eyed peas and rice, keeping them separate, and set aside.  In a large soup pot set over medium heat, saute onions in olive oil until lightly browned, then add leeks and continue to cook.  When the leeks begin to brown, make a well in the center, pour in a little more olive oil, and saute the minced garlic and cumin for a minute or two until it’s very fragrant.  Stir it all together, then add the celery, minced chili pepper, water, paprika, and turmeric.  Bring to a boil and then turn the heat to medium low and cook until the beans are as tender as you like them.  You can expect that to take about 1 1/2 hours, but that really depends on the age of the beans and your altitude, so don’t hold me to it!  Meanwhile, cook the rice .  If you’ve soaked it, put it in a medium pot with the olive oil, saffron, salt, and water in the proportions given above.  Bring to a boil, then turn heat to medium low and cover to simmer for 30 minutes.  If you didn’t soak it, follow the rice:water ratios provided on the package. as well as the cooking time.  Now it’s time to finish the soup.  Once you add the acidic ingredients (tomato and lemon) and the salt, you might find that the beans won’t soften any more, so be sure they are soft enough before you do that.  The rice is fine sitting in the pot until you are ready for it.  Add the tomato, lemon, salt and pepper and simmer for about another 15-30 minutes (or more).  Taste, adjust seasonings, and serve over rice with some yummy za’atar spiced bread.  Enjoy!

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1 Comment »

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