Abala (Black Eyed Pea Tamales)
Sold as a street snack in Senegal, these simple banana leaf-wrapped packets are thickened with pureed black-eyed peas and served with a tart-spicy relish. This recipe first appeared in our May 2012 issue along with John O’Connor’s story A Feast For All.
- 1 cup black-eyed peas, soaked overnight
- 2 tbsp. palm oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1⁄2 Japanese eggplant, finely chopped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 12 (8″ x 6″) squares banana leaves
- 1⁄3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1⁄4 cup canola oil
- 2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
- 1 habañero or Scotch bonnet chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
- 1⁄2 small red onion, very thinly sliced lengthwise
- Drain peas and transfer to a food processor; pulse until slightly broken and skins break away from peas, about 4 pulses. Transfer peas to a medium bowl and cover with water; let sit until skins float to top of water. Slowly drain water from peas, allowing skins to drain with water; remove any remaining pieces of skin from peas. Place peas in a blender with 3 tbsp. water, and puree, scraping down sides of blender if necessary, until smooth; set pea puree aside.
- Heat oil in a 10″ skillet over medium heat; add yellow onion and eggplant, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until softened, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir into pea puree; season filling with salt and pepper. Place 2 tbsp. filling in the middle of a banana leaf sheet with long sides parallel to you; starting with long sides, tri-fold sheet over filling, and then tri-fold shorter sides to create a square packet. Transfer packet, seam side down, to a baking sheet; repeat with remaining filling and banana leaf sheets.
- Bring 1″ water to a boil in the bottom of a 6-qt. saucepan fitted with a metal steamer insert. Working in batches, place packets, seam side down, on steamer, cover with lid, and cook until filling is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, to make relish, stir together juice, oil, tomatoes, chile, red onion, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Open packets while hot and top with relish to serve.