Black-eyed peas have always been part of my family’s Rosh Hashanah tradition, a symbolic food that, though totally delicious, only reaches our table once a year. It was wonderful to find that in Turkey, black-eyed peas are eaten regularly as a side dish cooked in a simple tomato sauce.

If you can’t find dried black-eyed peas, substitute with two tins of black-eyed peas, drain and rinse, then taste. If they are not creamy, they may require further cooking. If so, follow the directions below but simmer until creamy, probably no more than 10 minutes. If, on the other hand, they are creamy straight out of the tin, drain, and rinse and continue from step 3.

For the black-eyed peas:

  • 225g (8 ounces/1 ½ cups) dried black-eyed peas
  • 700 ml (3 cups) water
  • Half an onion unpeeled
  • Half a head garlic unpeeled
  • 2 bay leaves

For the tomato sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 240 ml (1 cup) passata (unseasoned tomato sauce)
  • 240 ml (1 cup) water
  • Salt to taste
  1. Pick out any peas that are discolored, rinse the peas and soak them in fresh cold water that is more than double the volume of the peas for 6 to 8 hours.
  2. Drain the peas. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, place the peas, 700 ml (3 cups) water, onion, garlic, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and cook at a gentle simmer, uncovered, until the peas are tender 30-50 minutes depending on the age of the peas. Drain, discard the onion, garlic, and bay leaves, set the peas aside while you make the tomato sauce.
  3. Heat a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Once hot, add the olive oil and heat until shimmering, lower the heat to medium, add the onion and sugar and saute, stirring constantly until the onion is very soft and has turned golden. Add the garlic and cook for a further 1 minute until the garlic is fragrant.
  4. Stir in the tomato paste and passata (unseasoned tomato sauce) along with the water and bring the mixture to the boil, taste and season.
  5. Add the black-eyed peas, bring mixture to the boil, lower the heat to a gentle simmer, cover the pan, simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot.