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Cathy Katin-Grazzini

Cathy’s Kitchen Prescription LLC


West African Black-Eyed Pea and Okra Soup


West Africa is the source of culinary inspiration for so many Caribbean, Cajun, and Gulla Geechee dishes.  Tomatoes, onions, and chilies are the foundation.  Here’s a very flavorful, nutritious, hearty soup that pays tribute to this rich culinary heritage. Two indigenous ingredients like dawadawa (aka iru, or fermented locust beans) and melegueta pepper (aka grains of paradise), lend greater authenticity and depth of flavor. They are nice to have but not essential for a memorable meal. This soup should be spicy and mouth-warming so tailor the quantity of chili and pepper to your comfort level. For those who REALLY like it hot, substitute an even hotter chili like Scotch bonnet or habanero for the cayenne but hold onto your hat if you do!


Prep time 1 hour to steep dried black-eyed peas plus 30 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes

Serves 4 to 6


1 pound dry black-eyed peas

2 bay leaves

3 cloves garlic


1 yellow onion, cut in medium dice, about 2 cups

2 medium carrots, cut in medium dice, about 1 cup

3 stalks celery, cut in ¼” slices, about 1 cup

1 large green bell pepper, cut in medium dice, about 1½ cups

4 cloves garlic, ground with the ginger into a paste

1 inch knob peeled ginger root, ground with the garlic into a paste

½ to 1 teaspoon dried dawadawa, steeped in hot water, or freshly ground (optional), or to taste

1 teaspoon dry thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

6 allspice berries

1 14-ounce can good quality whole tomatoes (about 4 tomatoes and ½ cup purée)

1-2 fresh cayenne or similar chilies or 1/8 to ¼ teaspoons cayenne powder, or to taste

6 cups no-sodium vegetable broth or pot liquor from steamed greens, heated, and more as needed

3 cups unpeeled kabocha squash or peeled yams, cut in large dice

1 pound fresh or frozen okra cut in ½-inch slices

1 tablespoon freshly ground coriander seeds

1 teaspoon freshly ground green cardamom seeds

1 tablespoon no-sodium ground dehydrated soup vegetables (optional)

5 packed cups spinach leaves

½ teaspoon freshly ground melequeta pepper or black pepper, or to taste

Aka (red) miso, about 1 tablespoon per bowlful, diluted in warm water, or to taste



Cilantro leaves

Scallion greens, cut in 1/8-inch slices


  • Rinse the black-eyed peas and place in a pot, cover with water by 1 to 2 inches, toss in the bay leaves and garlic cloves, boil for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat, cover, and steep for about an hour (less if the peas are fresher) or until they all swell and sink. Drain, toss the bay leaves, and set aside.


  • In a separate pot, heat the broth, cover, and maintain on a very low simmer.


  • Dilute about 1 tablespoon of miso in three tablespoons of warm water for the number of servings planned for this meal.  Stir to dissolve completely. Set aside.


  • Slice the garlic and ginger and using a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder, grind into a paste.


  • Heat an 8-quart, heavy-bottomed pot for 3 minutes on medium-low. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and green pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, as the vegetables sweat their liquid.


  • Stir in the garlic-ginger paste, the tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon, then the drained dawadawa, if using, thyme, allspice, and chilies.  Simmer gently for 3 minutes.


  • Add the squash or yam and the fresh okra, if using, now. And after a minute, add 6 cups of the heated broth and maintain at a gentle simmer.


  • Add the frozen okra, if using, and season to taste with the freshly ground dehydrated vegetables, coriander, cardamom, and melequeta or black pepper, and cook for the final few minutes until the flavors meld and the vegetables are tender but intact. Stir in the spinach, taste to correct seasonings again, cover, and turn off the heat. If the soup is too dense for your tastes, stir in another cup or so of hot broth.


  • Serve in bowls warmed in hot water or in a low 110°F/43°C oven. Stir the diluted miso to taste into each bowlful of steaming soup, and garnish with cilantro leaves and sliced scallion.



West African Black-Eyed Pea and Okra Soup

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