1) In a large, preferably nonstick wok or pot, combine the oil, onion and a pinch of salt. Set the wok over medium heat and cook until you hear the onions sizzling. Give them a stir, and cook until deep golden brown and sweet-smelling, 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure you stir them (nearly continuously!) in the last few minutes to keep them from burning, and add a splash of water (carefully!) if they start to stick.
2) Add the curry leaves, garlic, and ginger, and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
Now to add the spice mix. In a small bowl, combine the coriander, cumin, paprika, turmeric, and pepper. If you’re using a nonstick pan, sprinkle away. If not, then dissolve the spice mix in a little water, then add it to the pan. Either way, stir continuously for 30 seconds.
3) Carefully add the tomatoes (they will sputter), and stir well. Cook for a couple of minutes, smashing the tomatoes with your spoon, until thickened and nearly dry.
Add the black-eyed peas, hot water, sugar and ¾ teaspoon salt. Stir until well combined, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
4) Stir in the tamarind concentrate and—my favorite part—that luxurious, creamy coconut milk. Simmer very gently, uncovered, for 8 to 10 minutes, just to thicken it up a bit. Taste for salt and finish with the cilantro.
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