Delicious, hearty Black-eyed Pea Salad (vegan, rich and healthy)
The spring is finally here! After about two months of rains and colder than usual temperatures, it seems that we are getting into the spring. Sunnier days seem to be more common in the last week. Which is perfect, as the Orthodox Easter is approaching. If you’re following this blog for some time, you may know that Easter is a big deal for us Greeks.
Most of the people travel to the countryside and celebrate in the great outdoors, in beautiful natural surroundings. One of our favorite (and quite popular) posts about Easter is this one with the recipe for Tsoureki, the fragrant sweet bread that is served on Easter Sunday. In that post we described in detail all the Pascha-related traditions, including the red-dyed egg “competition” at the table:) If you missed it, take a look, you are going to enjoy it.
A trip to Kalavryta and mount Helmos
In the last two posts, the one with the cinnamon-cardamom muffins and the one with the roasted butternut squash and sweet potatoes with started to describe some of the beautiful mountainous areas of the mainland which aren’t well known abroad. We have had the privilege to visit a few of these places, and are really looking forward to sharing our impressions with you so that you can perhaps visit them someday.
In these last posts, we talked about our trip to Trikala of Corinth and mount Ziria. In this one and the next, we are looking forward to sharing our experiences from visiting another mountainous place in the Peloponnese: Kalavryta.
Kalavryta is right next to Helmos (also known as Chelmos or Aroania). It is a beautiful mountain village that is full of history and one of the most popular winter destinations for Athenians. The village and the area are known for three reasons.
The first one is the monastery of Agia Lavra which is close to the village. This is the place where the call Eleftheria I Thanatos (Freedom or Death) was first heard on the 25th of March 1821. It was the call for revolution against the Ottomans and the start of the Greek War of Independence.
The second is the Massacre or Holocaust of Kalavryta: the total destruction of the village by the German army on the 13th of December 1943. We will discuss this event in more detail in the next post, where we’ll continue with our experiences from this trip.
The third reason, is the popular ski resort of Mount Helmos, one of the closest to Athens and also one of the best organized.
The are many more reasons to visit Kalavryta however: the good food, the village itself with its pedestrian areas and walkways and its beautiful little shops, the rack railway to Diakofto, the Cave of the Lakes, the Mega Spileo (Great Cave) monastery, the Planitero sources of the river Aroanios… the list can go on.
Accommodation and food
We arrived at Kalavryta on a weekday, in the afternoon; which was great, as the village had fewer visitors, and it was easier to walk on the streets and enjoy its taverns and cafes. We settled in a beautiful guesthouse, called Archontiko Zafeiropoulos (shameless plug), at the entrance of the village. This way our stay was more tranquil since we weren’t staying “downtown”, but we were also within walking distance from the center of the village. You can see in the first picture the delicious breakfast that we enjoyed the next morning, being the only two people in the guesthouse on that weekday as well as the beautiful stone-paved entrance.
The food in the village was really good. It was the quality of the vegetables and the meats in the places that we visited which determined what each meal would be. Fresh, local products were used in many of the taverns. Among the highlights are some of the yummiest fresh French fries, delicious feta wrapped in phyllo pastry, served with honey and toasted sesame seeds, and Drosato: beets and walnuts served on a bed of Greek yogurt, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.
One should definitely also try the spoon sweets, sold in many small shops in the village, as well as the local honey and the dried herbs; all of them were very good.
One of the most enjoyable things in Kalavryta was to take the train to Diakofto and back. There’s a rack railway called Odontotos which travels in the gorge of the Vouraikos river and offers unique sights of its canyon. When we were returning, we stopped at the village of Zachlorou. The area is lush green, and there we took some of the pictures that you see in the post.
The village is quiet and the only sounds are the ones from the birds and the river. We walked in the village and the trails around it for a couple of hours. The day was sunny and bright, making this a really enjoyable experience.
The Cave of the Lakes
Upon returning to Kalavryta, it was still sunny, warm and beautiful and we decided to postpone our lunch and visit another place suggested by the staff of our guest house: the cave of the lakes. We took the car, as it is a few km away from the village and less than half an hour we were there. There’s ample parking space in the spot, and the view of the mountains is magnificent. They have guided tours in the cave, so we bought the tickets and waited for it to start.
The cave was majestic. There is a river in the cave that dries up in the summer months and leaves behind 13 cascading lakes. The stalactites have created some truly unique shapes which are very close to the pathway we followed. There are also bats that were sleeping during the day, way up in the ceiling, at the entrance of the cave (more than 50m over our heads).
The cave is mentioned in Greek mythology and was also inhabited during the Paleolithic ages. Fossils of humans and hippopotamus have been found inside and international teams are continuing with the exploration of the cave in the far side, at the point where the guided tour stops.
Overall, it was a highly recommended, unique experience. As mentioned above, we will continue with our story about the trip to Kalavryta on the next post, in order to keep this one a bit shorter, as we tend to ramble on forever :)
During these days, especially as we are getting close to Easter, the Lent called Sarakosti makes many people in Greece trying to limit their consumption of meat. They are following more-less a vegetarian-pescatarian diet with lots of beans, lentils, chickpeas, rice, pasta and seafood dishes.
We love this period, as our own diet is also mainly vegetarian and pescatarian. We are omnivores, but we don’t eat a lot of red meat. We prefer poultry and seafood, legumes and vegetables. This may sound boring to most, but it’s really not. There are countless ways to cook such foods and make hearty and delicious dishes.
Black-eyed pea salad
One of those dishes is the one we want to share with you in this post: a delicious black-eyed pea salad. Yes, we know what you thought when you read this; that this may be another boring and bland salad. It’s what we may have thought too if we were in your shoes. But this is not the case.
Indeed many salads with beans tend to be quite bland as people don’t want to load them with thick dressings, bacon, etc. We agree with that tactic, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to make a humble bean salad really good. This is one of these ways.
We combined the black-eyed peas with one of our favorite flavorful vegetables: the long sweet red peppers, called Italian peppers abroad and Florinis here (the word means from Florina, a town in northern Greece). Those peppers are amazing both raw and roasted. In this salad we added them raw, to add freshness and crunchiness. You can also try adding them roasted, the combination with the beans is amazing either way!
Another important ingredient is the spring onion. Do not use red or yellow onions in this salad. Use fresh spring onions, and slice the white and most of the green part as well. We tried all the types of onions and concluded that the spring onions are the best ones for this dish.
For extra flavor, we added Kalamata olives, pitted in brine (they look more beautiful in salads), parsley and dill. The dill is the most important of these two herbs. Feel free to adjust the quantity according to your preferences, but we think that you need at least 1/3 of a cup.
To combine all the salad’s ingredients and give them extra flavor, we made one of our favorite dressings, with extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, garlic, mustard, and paprika. This dressing is a must-try. It’s really delicious and you can also try it out in other salads or pour it over grilled fish/seafood!
Dried black-eyed peas
As for the black-eyed peas, we suggest boiling dried ones. This way, you will know that they are cooked without preservatives or other additives. They will also taste better, as you can add your own flavorings like we did in this recipe by adding garlic and bay leaves. Moreover, if you cook your own black-eyed peas, you can cook them as soft or al-dente as you prefer.
Most black-eyed peas need only about 40 minutes in a slow simmer, in a covered pot. As we mentioned in other posts with legumes, always buy fresh dried peas. The ones stored for a year (or more), tend to take very long to soften. Also prefer local domestic legumes, as they won’t have stayed in stock for months, waiting to be packaged and delivered to your area.
However, if you have limited time, and need a quick meal, then, of course, you can also use canned black-eyed peas. In this case, place them in a colander and rinse well before using them.
A hearty, healthy, naturally vegan dish
Give this salad a try and you won’t regret it. It really may become a meatless Monday favorite in your household. Of course, this is a dish that’s also perfect for vegetarians and vegans as it doesn’t contain any animal products.
You can also prepare this the night before if you want to serve it on the next day; keep in mind that the flavors will be much stronger in this case, however. Simply wrap the container/bowl well with cling film and put it in the fridge.
This salad is also a meal on its own, packed with soluble fiber (and protein) from the black-eyed peas. The quantity in this recipe is enough for 4 large portions; and even more, if you are serving it as a side salad. If you are having a big backyard party, then you can easily double all the ingredients and make a larger salad. It’s really that easy to make this for more people.
This may become your go-to recipe for black-eyed peas, as it is very simple, it’s filling, it’s healthy and it does pack A LOT of flavors. Here’s how to make this non-boring salad.
For the salad
- 250g / 9oz (1 1/4 cup) black-eyed peas, dried *
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 bay leaves
* You can also use canned if your time is very limited. In this case strain and rinse 2 cans, 15oz each.
- 50-60g / 2oz (about 2) spring onions, finely chopped, white and most of the green part
- 200-240g / 7-8.5oz (2 medium) sweet Italian peppers, cut in small squares
- 25-30g / 1oz (about 1/3 cup) fresh dill, finely chopped
- 25-30g / 1oz (about 1/3 cup) fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 60g / 2oz (about 1/2 cup) Kalamata olives, pitted *
* for this recipe, we suggest using store-bought pitted olives in brine, as they look better
For the dressing
- 30ml (2 tablespoons) apple cider vinegar
- 95ml (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 tablespoon yellow mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon white or brown sugar
If using dried black-eyed peas (highly recommended), then place them in a colander and rinse well. Put them in a medium sized pot, with 2.5 lt / 2.5 quarts fresh water, the bay leaves and the garlic cloves (pic. 1). Place on medium-high heat, and once it starts simmering, lower the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. For the black-eyed peas to be ready, they must be soft enough for a salad (try one or two to check). Once ready, drain in a colander (but do not rinse!). Allow them to cool for at least 10 minutes. Of course, if using canned black-eyed peas, you can skip this step, drain and rinse them.
In a very large bowl, add the black-eyed peas, the peppers, the onions, the olives, the dill and the parsley (pic. 2).
Make the dressing:
In a small jar with a lid (or a small bowl, in which case also use a whisk to mix) add the apple cider, the olive oil, the garlic, the mustard, the salt, the pepper, the paprika and the sugar (pic. 3). Close the lid and shake very well for about a minute (pic. 4).
Pour the dressing over the bowl with the salad (pic. 5) and gently mix everything together, using a large spoon (pic. 6). Move the spoon from the bottom to the top, folding everything together.
Kali oreksi, please let us know what you think!
1. Prefer using dried black-eyed peas. They taste much better when freshly cooked.
2. Allow the black-eyed peas to cool down before adding them to the salad. Don’t be hasty.
3. You can also try this salad with smoked paprika instead of the regular one.
4. You can also add roasted sweet peppers instead of fresh ones, for a different equally delicious result.
5. You can try it out with fresh mint instead of dill. It’s a very different flavor, but also really yummy.