Last Friday, I had a dinner ‘date’ with my husband (yes! no kid!) in the Italian restaurant where we had our very first dinner the day we moved to Berlin in 2009. We sat on the very same table and all the memories flooded in: being a mother of a 10 months old baby who could barely crawl, the coldest winter I have ever experienced when streets were covered in snow and ice for solid three months! The loneliness and helplessness of being in a foreign land with no knowledge of it’s language, and apart from my husband and my baby, I didn’t know one single soul. Even though my husband was very supportive, it was still a ridiculously tough year for me. But when our exquisite mixed platter of calamari salad with artichoke mousse, shrimps salsa with chili, salmon tartar, pickled herring served with rocket salad and raw oyster on half shell arrived on our table, I totally put the melancholy behind me, with a fork in one hand and a glass of chilled red wine in the other, relishing the fine food that was served in front of me, I couldn’t be happier anywhere else!
When I was enjoying our seafood platter, some taste of the dish has brought me back to Macau – my birth place. It was this briny, zesty taste which resemble the salad that I adored when I was an adolescent – black eyed peas salad, Portuguese style. So the next day, I went to the Asian store and bought a bag of dry black eyed peas and hoping to recreate the taste that I once so familiar with.
The traditional Portuguese black eyed peas salad usually consists of tuna and hard boil eggs as well, but I made my version with shaved fennel and red onions because it was made as a side dish for grilled pork chop. The crunchiness of the fennel adds an extra texture to the salad, the slight licorice and anise taste enhances the overall favour. I will make the original version with the left over cooked beans for another day as a stand alone meal.
Note: I soaked the black eyed peas over night and cooked them with a pressure cooker, so if you don’t have one, I found this link here explains how to cook beans on the stove. I usually cook a big batch for the rest of the week as well. This salad goes well with fish, pork or crispy bacon (just as a few examples). For vegetarian, add cooked brown rice and perhaps a fried egg on top?
Marinate the finely slice red onion in lemon juice for at least 10 minutes to mellow down the astringent taste.
Serves 2-3 as a side
For the black eyed peas:
- 1.5 cups dry black eyed peas, soaked in water overnight (it will make about 3.5 cups of cooked beans)
- 1 small onion, peeled and halved
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 clove of garlic
For the salad:
- 2 cups cooked black eyed peas
- 1 small red onion, finely sliced
- 1/3 medium fennel bulb, very thinly shaved with a mandolin (or sliced with a sharp knife)
- 2 tbsp. of lemon juice (separated)
- 1 small bunch of Italian parsley (or other parsley if not the Italian type), more for garnish
- 3 tsp. good quality white wine vinegar
- 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt flakes (I use Maldon Sea Salt)
- Freshly ground black pepper
Cook the soaked black eyed peas (drained and rinsed) with the bay leaf, onion, garlic in a pressure cooker for 5 minutes. Removed from heat and let it de-pressure naturally. Drain the beans and leave to cool.
Use 1 tbsp. of the lemon juice to marinate the sliced red onion for about 10 minutes and then add in the rest of the salad ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well and season with more salt and pepper as desire. Leave the salad stand for at least 15 minutes before serving to let the taste develop fully.
Happy Valentines Day!