Southern Black-Eyed Pea Soup with Collards

Today's recipe is easy to make, filled with hearty vegetables, and it contains a fully balanced meal in just one pot.

It's a mild soup; it won't overwhelm you with taste sensations. Instead, think of this soup as a calm, sunny reminder of the simple goodness of healthy fresh veggies.

If that isn't enough to convince you to make it, how about the preposterously cheap price? We made a double batch of this soup for the staggering cost of $7.81. Since a double batch made at least 12 servings (perhaps as many as 15 servings, I'll let you know once we get closer to the bottom of the pot), that works out to the laughable cost of 65c per serving. And if you break out your rice cooker and serve this dish gumbo-style over rice, the cost gets even lower, perhaps as low as 45c per serving. Yes, all you dollar-a-day menu doubters, it can be done.

Southern Black-Eyed Pea Soup with Collards
Modified from Jay Solomon's Vegetarian Soup Cuisine: 125 Soups and Stews from Around the World

1 cup black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and drained
8 cups water

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

4 cups chopped collard greens, chiffonade-style (see below)
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 medium turnips, peeled and cubed
2 potatoes, cubed (can leave unpeeled)

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1) In a large pot, combine your already soaked black-eyed peas and 8 cups water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Drain, but save back about six cups of cooking liquid (can add water if you don't have enough). Meanwhile, do the vegetable prep work.

2) Heat the oil in a separate large pot. Add the onion, celery, garlic and seasonings. Saute over medium heat for 5 minutes.

3) Add all other ingredients, bring to a boil, and simmer for 35-45 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Stir occasionally.

4) Add the parsley and serve (over rice if desired).

Serves at least 6.

Recipe notes:
1) Like many soups and stews, this dish is a good candidate for doubling, but make sure you have a pot big enough to hold it all. The prep work is manageable.

2) The black-eyed peas are what complete this meal, adding body to the soup and plenty of protein to each serving. They are hardy beans and hard to screw up: I goofed and inadvertantly soaked my dried BEPs for more than 24 hours rather than "overnight" as instructed by the recipe. It didn't matter; I just tested the beans for doneness during their boiling session, and they were done in about 50 minutes, rather than in the specified hour/hour and a half. Also, if the BEPs get a bit foamy when you first bring them to a boil, you can scoop some of the foam away and discard it.

3) A few words (and pictures) on what it means to chop greens chiffonade-style. It simply means to roll the greens into a tight roll and then slice them into thin strips. It's an extremely efficient way to process large leafy greens, and collards lend themselves particularly well to this prep technique: just cut off the stem ends, lay the leaves on top of each other in a big pile, and then roll them up (side-to-side, not end-to-end). Then slice crosswise down the roll. In seconds you'll reduce a huge pile of collards into manageable and attractive-looking strips.

4) You'll need to like--or at least tolerate--turnips in order to like this soup. I used to HATE turnips, so I made this recipe with some admitted trepidation. But like many foods with slightly bitter flavors (olives, Brussels sprouts, black coffee, beer), I've found that I've grown to like them as I get older. I must be growing bitter with age, and thus bitter foods taste better and better to me.

But here's the thing: if you leave the turnips out, you'll miss one of the key unexpected treats of eating this soup: the occasional mini-surprise of thinking you're about to bite into a potato, and, whoop--a spicy turnip bites back at you! The fun never stops here at Casual Kitchen.

5) Finally, an under-appreciated reason why simple soups and stews are ideal for home cooking: they tolerate mistakes. Today's recipe is a particularly good example. I'm not sure what my problem was, but I was in severe flake mode the day I made this soup. I did things in the wrong order. I did the prep work inefficiently. I soaked the beans longer than I meant to and even forgot to drain them after they soaked. I tried to make a double batch of a big pot of soup without knowing if it would all fit into my biggest soup pot (naturally, it didn't--which forced me to cook it in two pots side by side). And yet the soup still came out just fine.

That's what I call a truly robust recipe.

Related Posts:
Seven Rules To Ensure Mistake-Free Cooking
Groundnut Stew: A Classic and Exotic Vegetarian Recipe
Quite Possibly the Easiest Lentil Soup Recipe You’ll Find Anywhere
Why I'm a Part-Time Vegetarian

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The Diva on a Diet said...

Beautiful recipe, Dan! I love a simple soup - honestly, it looks and sounds like health in a bowl. Love it!

Laura said...

This sounds really good, and I have some black eyed peas I've wanted to use up - sounds like a great way to do so! I'm adding it to my collection of recipes to try soon.

Chloe (Naturally Frugal) said...

That looks amazing and the perfect meal for a fall day. I'm definitely bookmarking this!

Daniel said...

Diva, Laura and Chloe, thanks to all of you for your comments! As long as you're okay with eating turnips--not everybody is--this recipe is a huge keeper. Thanks for reading.


Shane said...

Dan, this actually sounds pretty good. I'm trying to eat healthier and running again so I might have to try it. Not gonna lie, before I even read your part about the turnips, I was thinking of leaving them out. Maybe I'll keep them in so as not to miss out on the spicy surprise. LOL! Looking forward to seeing you and Laura in a couple weeks! - Shane

Daniel said...

Shane, happy to hear it, and yep, you won't get much healthier than this dish. I hope you enjoy it AND enjoy the spice surprise. May the fun never end at your house too. :)

Thanks for reading!


Anonymous said...

Made this a month or so ago. I got 9 servings out of it. It was good but I prefer more flavouring, spices, whatever.