Balkan Bean soup
Beans are as Balkan as you can get. All over the Balkan you will find there is a great variety of beans available throughout the year and just as many recipes that include them. A few days ago I posted a recipe for baked beans using the the common white bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). This particular variety, which originated in the Americas, is a much loved food because beans are tasty, cheap and full of natural goodness.White beans are packed with fiber and plant based protein and are a good source for folate, magnesium, vitamin B6, copper, selenium, iron, zink, calcium, potasium, riboflavin, phospheros, thiamin and copper. All of these essential nutrients are necessary to keep our bodies strong and healthy. An added benefit of including beans in your diet is that they are stuffed with polyphenol antioxidants, powerful compounds which can help us to protect from chronic diseases such as certain cancers and heart disease. Many Balkan countries include (smoked) meat when cooking beans but we are going to leave the meat out.The following recipe is not typically Greek, nor Serbian. This is my signature bean soup, delicious, pure vegan and easy to prepare.
Servings: 10 portions
Cost: 2 Euro, 2-3 US$
- large soup pot with lid
- bowl for soaking beans
- 500 gram white beans dried
- 500-800 gram celery root peeled and cubed
- 2 Kg onions peeled and cubed
- 2 medium carrots peeled, topped and tailed, then tossed in whole
- 1 bunch parsley washed, stalks removed and roughly chopped
- few drops Angostura Bitters Definitely worth it
- ½ tsp tarragon dried
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tsp Vegeta or some other vegetable stock can be made without but it does add tons of flavour
- 3 liters water maybe more, maybe less. It all depends what consistency you want the soup to be, runny or thick.
- The following ingredients are added to the soup after cooking. Measurements are for bowls of soup! Poor the soup into soup bowls and then add the following ingredients if you choose to do so.
- 1 tbsp olive oil use only a good quality (Greek) extra virgin
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch ground black pepper
- 1 pinch red hot chili peppers course ground
- Soak the beans in cold tap water for a minimum of 6 hours. I soak them for up to 24 hours. I find, the longer they soak, the better the end resultDuring this period cleanse the water by emptying the beans into a strainer, so the old water flushes away. Quickly rinse the beans under the tap, then return the beans to the bowl and fill again with water. Do this 1-2 times during the 6 hour soaking period. They say it will reduce flatulence when eating the bean soup. I would say, definitely worth the effort 🙂
- Once the beans have done their soaking it is time for cooking. Add the diced onions into a wok or large saute pan and together with a couple of drops of vegetable oil saute for a minute or so, just to soften them. Then add these to the soup pot. Add the peeled carrots, the chopped parsley, the bay leaf and the diced celery root. Add (boiled) water, the Vegeta (or vegetable stock) stir and bring to boiling point, then turn down the heat and simmer.
- My two secrets to this recipe are the addition of Angostura bitters and a little Tarragon. The trick is to add just a little, you don't want too much so that these flavours are don't become overpowering.
- Simmer on low heat for a minimum of 2 hours. Longer is better.All together you may start of with about 5 liters. You should aim to reduce the broth to about 3 liters. The longer the soup cooks, the more starch the beans release and the thicker the soup becomes. Make sure to stir from time to time and add more water if necessary.
I discovered that adding a few drops of Angostura Bitters to stews or soups makes for some interesting umami 'notes' on the palate. Tarragon is an extremely pungent herb which ordinarily goes well with creamy steak sauces and chicken but is less associated with soups. A little tarragon does wonders, too much will spoil the broth. So be careful. In Greece it is customary to add extra virgin olive oil to broths and soups after cooking. This way the oil keeps its goodness, adds flavour and, depending on the oil, either grassy overtones or a smooth nutty flavour. This soup doesn't need it but sometimes (red wine) vinegar is added to give the soup a tang that will bring a lively vigor to the overall taste. Vinegar, in small doses, can be as healthy as the beans themselves. When you're ready to eat all you need is a spoon and a slice of my super spelt bread Enjoy!