In the December 2022 episode of Seasoned, culinary historian Michael Twitty spoke to Tagan Engel about the origins of black-eyed peas. “The black-eyed pea, as a sacred symbol, is definitely West African,” he explained. In some African cultures “they’re the eye of the creator, never closing.” Black-eyed peas are symbolic of good luck, prosperity, and fertility in some cultures. Tagan added, “Akara, traditionally, among the Yuroba people, is an offering that’s made to the ancestors.” Because they’re fried in oil, Akaras would be at home at a Hanukkah celebration, and you’ll find this recipe as part of a Kwanzaa/New Year’s menu in Michael’s book, Koshersoul.
Michael Twitty's Akaras (Black-Eyed Pea Fritters)
- 2 cups black-eyed peas, dried
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon Suya (see below)
- 1 teaspoon kosher “Chicken” consommé powder
- 1 cayenne, Scotch Bonnet or habanero, halved, with seeds removed
- 2/3 cup water
- oil, for deep frying
Suya (Makes 1/3 cup)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground all spice
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne
- 1 teaspoon kosher bouillon cube
- Cover and soak the black-eyed peas in a deep bowl with cold water overnight.
- Drain them and then rub them between the palms of your hands to remove the skins. Return the shelled peas to the bowl of water, and the skins will float to the surface.
- Discard the skins and soak the peas again for 2 hours. Drain.
- Place peas in a blender or food processor with the onion, Suya Spice, consommé powder, hot pepper, and a little water. Blend until a batter is formed. Move to a large bowl and whisk for a few minutes.
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan to 375°F and fry small scoopfuls of batter until golden brown, about 4 minutes, turning to make sure each side is cooked.
- Mix all ingredients thoroughly; store in a cool, dry place. Many versions also contain finely ground unsalted peanuts; here use ½ cup if you so choose.