Thursday 29 January 2015

Globe-cooking recipe : Hoppin' John & Collards (USA) #readcookeat

 It's been ages since I've taken part in the #readcookeat challenge because there have just been no mentions of food in the latest books I've been reading. When a description of a local dish came up in the book I'd just finished reading, The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank, I squealed and immediately marked the page ! (You can see my review of The Hurricane Sisters here.)

The book takes place in South Carolina Lowcountry, which is the coastal area and islands of the state. Wikipedia has an article on Lowcountry Cuisine which includes such dishes as Sweet Potato & Crab Soup, Shrimp & Grits, Charleston Red Rice and Frogmore Stew (also known as shrimp boil and, you'll be pleased to know, nothing to do with frogs !).

Here's the paragraph that had me running for my post-it notes :

(p104) "Clayton and I tried to go every year just to watch all the participants in their crazy costumes run into the freezing water. Then we'd walk along Middle Street where all the restaurants had set up tables right on the street and have a plate of hoppin' John and collards for good luck. Eating collards on New Year's Day was to ensure money in the coming year. Greens bring green? Hoppin' John was a Lowcountry dish that ensured further good fortune. It was made of field peas and chopped onions cooked with smoked ham hocks. The watery juice from the pot of peas and onions, which we call pot liquor, was used to cook rice. Then, when the rice was tender, the peas and onions were combined with the rice. Was it delicious? No, it was earthy and nutty but not exactly delicious.However, it was traditional to eat it and Charlestonians were just superstitious enough to never change a tradition.This particular ritual was a good thing for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was that this particular one told you who you were. No one in their right mind would crave a bowl of hoppin' John except the sons and daughters of the Lowcountry. Maisie always said that knowing who you were and where you belonged was one component of good mental health. I believed that too."

Well, I may not be a daughter of the Lowcountry but it still sounded pretty good to me! Wikipedia is again very helpful in giving different recipe suggestions for this dish - I could substitute mustard greens, turnip greens, chard, kale, cabbage etc - anything that evokes the colour of American dollar bills really - for the collard greens (which is just as well as I've never seen them in the shops). The field peas are a smaller version of black-eyed peas and many people use bacon or country sausage for the ham hock. Other variations include adding green pepper or vinegar and spices. If you serve it up the day after New Year's Day, it is apparently called Skippin' Jenny !

Hoppin' John & Collards

3 cups dried beans (traditionally black eyed peas but I used chick peas)
2 onions
6 rashers bacon
2 cups rice
2 cups kale

I also added :
1/2 bag frozen Chinese veg
1 garlic Knorr Stock Pot
1 herb Knorr Stock Pot
1 vegetable Knorr Stock Pot
a dollop of Chipotle & Cola Tabasco Sauce 

Soak the beans for several hours, rinse and drain. Put the beans in a pot of water with the onions. I added the three Knorr stock pots here to inject some extra flavour. Cook for 30-40 minutes, topping up the water if necessary. Ten minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the chopped kale and Chinese veg.

Now, you should use the cooking water from the beans/onions to cook some rice but firstly, the water had almost all been soaked up by the beans and secondly, I had some leftover cooked Kingston curry rice from my Jamaican Jerk chicken meal, so I added that. I originally planned on using bacon lardons and putting them in with the beans to cook, but the Madhouse kids wanted a bacon sandwich so I ended up using rashers and cooking them separately instead !

It was actually very nice - admittedly not something that I'd pick in a restaurant but a lovely winter warmer all the same.

Linking up with this month's #ReadCookEat challenge

Link up your recipe of the week


  1. Perfect dish for winter, with lots of tasty flavours going on. I'd love to try it, collards are brassicas, aren't they, so they would work very well with ham or bacon. Thank you for joining in #ReadCookEat!

    1. I'm not entirely sure what they are, I used kale !

  2. What a brilliant name for a dish and it looks lovely. Did it have you hoppin though?

  3. LOL ! :) I want to know who John is !


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