As I said, I don’t really do anything different around January 1.
I had a long list of things I wanted to do over the holidays, though, but didn’t really conquer much of the list. Other than spend time with family and friends… and with myself. Sometimes, it may be more important to get a good relaxing vacation instead of worrying about work and other deadlines.
Rob and I had planned to do some spring cleaning, going through some of our stuff downstairs, but we procrastinated instead… ;)
I know some people are really good about cleaning out their pantries of old food, but I tend to accumulate instead of purge. However, I’ve had 2 recent cooking mishaps from stale spices, so I am urging you not to follow my footsteps into the same fate! Toss those old spices!
In my case, I inherited a nice spice drawer when I moved into our new house. The drawer is lined by rows of jars with spices. Some new to me, like anardana, and others that I had never used before like marjoram, and others that I just didn’t have like chili powder and ground mustard. I quickly added in some of my own spices that were missing like smoked paprika, parsley and mint. While I know how old my spices are, I wasn’t sure how long the inherited spices had been there… but when this recipe called for ground mustard, low and behold, I had some and plundered on.
This is a recipe for a Trinidadian Black-Eyed Pea Soup from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian (recipe also posted here). In addition to inheriting spices, I also was (very kindly) lent a slow cooker. This soup looked simple enough to simmer away in the crockpot, so I pieced it together and timed it so it would be ready by the time I got home after work. Since I was to be sharing this with a bunch of friends, I doubled the amount of black-eyed peas, carrot and spices, turning this into a stew instead of a soup.
There was so much stuff in the slow cooker, I was worried it would boil over! Thankfully, by the time I made it home, the stew was ready and Rob had already started to dish it out.
Everyone said they liked the stew, but I thought something was missing. The fresh cilantro and chives were important for flavour but the stew needed a bit more depth of flavour. I wasn’t happy with it. Someone ended up adding a spicy Dijon mustard and said it was superb. When I ate the leftovers, I agreed that the mustard really helped. But I thought to myself, I know I added the ground mustard – why can’t I taste it? So I went back to the ground mustard in the spice drawer… dipped my finger in it and tasted it. And what did it taste like? NOTHING! It definitely needed to be tossed!
Combined with lackluster results from Chili Lime Roasted Chickpeas due to stale chili powder, this has really gotten me to think about tossing the old spices! Out with the old and in with the new!
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Chez Cayenne, and to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring black eyed peas.
Trinidadian Black-Eyed Pea Stew
1 tbsp olive oil
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch dice (1.5 cups)
1 large onion, cut into 1/4 inch pieces (2 cups)
3 medium carrots, cut into 1/4 inch dice (2 cups)
1 lb dry black-eyed peas, rinsed (2-1/4 cups)
6 cups vegetable broth or water
6 tablespoons brown rice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp strong mustard, or more, to taste (original recipe said 1 tsp ground mustard dissolved in 1 tbsp water)
1/2 tsp Aleppo chili flakes (or to taste, this is supposed to be a spicy stew but this keeps it mild)
salt, to taste
1 tbsp finely chopped chives, for garnish
4 tbsp finely chopped cilantro, for garnish
lime or lemon wedge, for garnish
1. Add oil to a large pan over medium-high heat. Add in the bell pepper, onion, and carrots and saute for 3 minutes or until the onion turns translucent and slightly browned at the edges.
2. Combine the sauteed veggies with the black-eyed peas, rice, ginger, allspice, thyme, mustard, and chili flakes in the slow cooker. Add broth so it just covers the mixture.
3. Set slow cooker to low and simmer for 8 hours or so. If you don’t have a slow cooker, simmer on low for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally. You may need to add more water if it dries up.
4. Taste and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in the cilantro and top with chopped chives. Serve with lemon or lime on the side and add more mustard, to taste.