Plump gunga peas stand out in curry.
The other day I picked up an interesting package of legumes. I didn’t know what gunga peas were, but it would be easy to find out, I figured. Gunga peas, Wikipedia tells me, are pigeon peas, and are used in Caribbean cooking. They’re also found in Indian dishes, which explains their presence at Tesco.
After soaking them yesterday, I had to decide what to do with them, and I wasn’t in the mood for Caribbean. Suddenly I remembered a dish I had a few months ago, brought by another vegetarian to a cookout we went to. It was a yellow curry, simple yet delicious. I seem to remember she told me it contained some legume I wasn’t familiar with—gunga peas?
I’d been meaning to recreate this wonderful dish, so, armed with my soaked gunga peas, I set out to do just that.
The result wasn’t quite as yellow or creamy—maybe next time I’ll add another can of coconut milk (oh, the fat!) and more turmeric. But it was quite good, spicy and warm, an antidote to the cold front that was raging through our back garden. The gunga peas were perfect, just enough bite to provide interest. With a little eye like blackeyed peas, gunga peas are instead plump and round, like the pigeon they're named for.
If you can find dried pigeon peas, or gunga peas, do use them. I used about half in the curry; the rest we’ll eat in another dish. If not, I’m sure canned pigeon peas will work as well, and are more readily available (check in the Mexican or international section of your supermarket).
I used red fingerling potatoes, because that's what I had, but any waxy potato will do. And if you're a cilantro-hater, don't bother with that. I served this in a bowl, with some somosas and raita. Some naan would have been good, too.
See below for directions, including easy instructions on cooking dried gunga peas.
To cook dried gunga peas, soak them overnight or for 6-8 hours in cold water. Drain water, and cover the peas with fresh water. Bring to a boil, and continue to simmer over medium-high heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Add water as needed (keep a close eye one the peas!) and taste to determine if they're ready. Do not add salt until the peas are done. For this dish, you'll use about half a one pound (225 kg) package. Refrigerate or freeze the extra cooked peas, and serve later.
Gunga Pea Curry with Potatoes
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander,
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon fenugreek
½ teaspoon cayenne
1 onion, chopped
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can coconut milk
3 cups waxy potatoes, cut in bite-sized pieces
2 cups cooked ganga peas (plus some of the cooking juice)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup minced cilantro/coriander leaves
Cooked basmati rice (made from 1 cup rice)
Heat oil in a large dutch oven. Add mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the remaining spices. (It’s a good idea to combine them in a small bowl first and dump them in at once.). Stir them into the oil and after a minute, add the onion and ginger. Stir to coat the onion in the spices, then let the mixture cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring every minute or so to make sure the onion cooks evenly.
Then add the garlic. Stir briefly, and add the coconut milk and one can of water, the potatoes, and 2 cups of cooked or canned peas, including some of the cooking juice.
Cover the mixture, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the potatoes are done, around 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
Add salt, and a sprinkling of minced coriander leaves (cilantro).
Serve over hot basmati rice, with additional coriander on top.