Balkan Baked Beans aka Prebranac
Prebranac, as baked beans are known in many parts of the Balkan, is easy to make, a little time consuming, yes. However, This particular recipe asks for simple ingredients WITHOUT meat NOR added sugars and is therefore not just delicious but super healthy too with great potential to remove some of that bad cholesterol we tend to have built up over the years.Beans are a staple food found, in some form or an other, all over world. Today's recipe, again my wife's, is about a variety simply known as Phaseolus Vulgaris. Just kidding. That would be the Latin name. The bean we are talking about is commonly know as either the Navy Bean, Haricot, Pearl Haricot Bean, Boston bean or even the Pea Bean. Basically this white bean features in many types of dishes such as soups and even pies.Today, Phaseolus Vulgaris will star in one of mankind's favourite of all foods. Prebranac aka Balkan Baked Beans! . Baked beans is the type of food that can not be made in 15 minutes unless it comes out of a can. There are as many ways to make baked beans as there are beans in a kilogram but for me this recipe is probably one of the tastiest (and I have tasted many) and most probably one of the healthiest (since we only include natural ingredients, nothing artificial).Just like all good things come to those who wait this it is also true for this recipe. Though simple enough to make it is time consuming (only because I recommend soaking the beans for up to 6 hours) but your patience and effort will be highly rewarded!
Cost: 2-3 Euro, 2-4 US$
- Metal or Glass Baking Dish aka in the Balkan as 'Pekac'
- Large Bowl for soaking Beans
- Large saucepan for pre-cooking beans
- 500 grams dried white haricot beans soak these for up to 12 hours in cold water
- 1 Kg onions peeled and cubed.
- 3 medium leaks remove the leafy bits and make sure they are free of grits (earth). Then slice them into rings.
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and cut fine
- 2 large Dried Paprikas These need to be of the sweet variety. For some reason only dried (not fresh) paprikas get the desired result.
- 2 large Bay leafs dried
- ½ tsp Black pepper finely ground
- 1 tbsp salt sea salt preferably
- 1 tbsp Sweet Paprika powder use one that is dried and finely ground
- 1 cup vegetable oil sunflower is best but you can use corn or some other neutral tasting oil
- 2 tbsp lard or vegetable oil for greasing the Pekac aka baking dish CAUTION! When using lard, as we did in our recipe, then this dish can no longer be labeled as vegan or vegetarian.
- Here, below, follow some TIPS from my good friend, Bojan Bocvarov, executive chef at AMBAR and TORO restaurants both in Belgrade, Serbia, as well as AMBAR restaurants in Washington DC and Clarendon. Ambar restaurants showcase Balkan cuisine at its best.
- Bojan says; To make the beans extra special and to give the dish a surprising twist you can add one or more of the following ingredients.
- 1-2 tbsp fresh mint Washed and chopped. Add the mint 30 inutes before the beans are done
- 1-2 tbsp fresh nettles Washed and chopped. Again, add the mint 30 minutes before the beans are done
- 1-2 medium parsnips peeled, chopped into cubes, the size of beans, and cooked together with the beans once they go in the oven.
- 4-5 each sun dried tomatoes these work very well with the beans. just slice each sun dried tomato into 3-4 pieces.
- 5-10 grams fresh truffle needs to be grated over the beans once they come out of the oven, not before.
- First and foremost. Soak the beans in plenty of cold water. Use at least twice as much water as the volume of beans. Soaking the beans will soften them and so you will need less time to cook them.I recommend soaking the beans for 6 hours but, should you be in a hurry, it is possible to soak them for as little as a couple of hours. The longer you soak the beans, the less time you'll need to eventually cook them.
- Strain the beans and wash them with fresh cold tap water before transfering them to a large soup pot to be boiled. Again, add plenty of water and bring to the boil, then simmer for about 1½ hours. At this stage there is no need to add salt. That comes later.
- While the beans are boiling cut the onions and the leaks. The add the bay leafs and the dried (whole) paprika to a large skillet or wok. Stir-fry all of these ingredients for a few minutes, together with a little oil. You just want soften them up a little, not to cook them through.
- Prepare your baking dish or 'Pekac' by either greasing the dish with lard (my preferred way) or with vegetable oil which will also work just fine.
- In a saute pan add the cup of oil together with the dried paprika powder and the sliced garlic. Fry for just a minute, then remove from the heat and ladle the oily mix on to the boiled beans. Season with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.
- Add this mix, together with the stir fried leaks and onions, to the baking dish. Mix everything very well and close the lid.
- Bake for 1½ hours at 190°C/375°F. After this your Prebranac or Balkan Baked Beans are ready to be eaten immediately. Well, ehmmm. Maybe better to give it a few minutes to cool down. You wouldn't want to be rushed to the hospital upon your first bite, do we now? 🙂
We prepared these baked beans, as is customary on Good Friday, to be eaten with fish. So, for this occasion I also prepared a potato salad and grilled some Smoked Trout fillets to complete the meal. We used fish for our meal but you probably already know that beaked beans are a perfect food to be eaten together with sausages, any type of grill or barbecue, eggs, on toast or simply on their own. Ps. Potato salad was made by boiling non-starchy potatoes. Strain and mix with sliced spring onions, parsley and a dressing concocted from Extra Virgin Olive Oil, lots of white vinegar (or as I do, half red wine vinegar and half white vinegar), salt, pepper, a teaspoonful of grainy mustard and a couple of tablespoons of sour cream. Last but not least ...Please try some of Bojan Bocvarov's tips, which you'll find in the ingredients list above. I promise you'll be pleasantly surprised with the result. Enjoy!