Isn’t it crazy how time can fly by sometimes? It’s November already, and we’re approaching the last month of the year. Depending on where you live you might still be enjoying the last remnants of the hot summer and unusually warm autumn, but here in the Netherlands, it got cold. Rapidly. I can officially say: “Winter is coming.” Usually, that statement is a sure way of exposing myself as the Game of Thrones fan that I am and has little to do with the weather itself. Not today. I am in fact right!
Despite winter being my least favourite season I love it when it is quite cold, it gives me a perfect excuse to cook up a large batch of my favourite winter dish. Bean stew is very popular in the Mediterranean during winter. It is easy to make, filling and so delicious. Depending on where you are from you are calling this dish “pasta fazol” or “pasta fagioli”. The ingredients vary slightly from region to region, but they all have two things in common: pasta and beans. The dish might look humble but don’t underestimate it because this hearty bean stew is delicious, freezer friendly and tastes better once you reheat it.
It might take a little bit of preparation time because the beans need to be soaked, but it is a dish that is very easy to make. Soaking the beans is usually something I do in the evening. I fill a bowl or pot with cold water, add the beans and let them sit overnight. It’s quite fun to check on them once in a while because they turn very wrinkly in the start and there is a straightforward explanation for it. The skin of the bean is much thinner than the bean itself, so it rehydrates a lot faster, which makes it appear wrinkly. Don’t worry though, the beans will catch up, and after a few hours they will look perfectly smooth again and are ready for use.
If you make this stew for the sake of freezing it, the only thing you should keep in mind is not to add any pasta. Defrosted pasta in a stew is not the most pleasant eating experience. It turns very soft and squishy, so you are far better off with cooking a fresh portion of pasta while your stew defrosts. There are two simple methods that I use to defrost this dish and reheat it thoroughly. The quickest way is the microwave, but personally, I prefer to heat it in an oven proof glass dish with a lid on it. It keeps the moisture in and heats it thoroughly.
- 250g cranberry (borlotti) beans
- 300g (2 cups) onions, diced
- 150g (1 cup) carrots, diced
- 100g (1 cup) leek, finely chopped
- 100g (1 cup) celery, diced
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 3 tbsp oil
- 2 bay leaf
- 1tsp sweet paprika powder
- ½ tsp pepper
- ½ tsp curry powder
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 2.5L (9 cups) vegetable stock.
- to thicken the stew
- 3 tbsp oil + 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 4 boiled potatoes
- Soak the beans in cold water overnight (12hours). Use a large bowl for that, the more water, the better. Rinse them well and pour them into a large pot. Add 3L (12.5 cups) of water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes. Discard the water and add 2,5 L of boiling vegetable stock water. Cook at high heat for another 50 minutes.
- Clean and cut the vegetables into even little cubes, not larger than the beans.
- Saute the vegetables with the spices, salt and pepper in a large pan with 3 tbsp of oil for about 10 minutes. They should be softened and lightly coloured, not browned. Stir in the tomato puree until everything is evenly covered.
- Add the vegetables to the beans and simmer over medium heat for another 20 minutes.
- To thicken the stew you can either use flour or cooked potatoes.
Option 1: If you are avoiding gluten then blend 4 cooked potatoes in a little bit of the vegetable stock that you take from the stew. Add the mix back to the stew and stir well.
Option 2: For the more traditional route then Add the flour and oil to a saucepan. Stir well on low heat until slightly golden. Add a little bit of liquid from the stew at a time and keep stirring until you got a smooth and thick sauce. Pour it into the stew and give it a gentle stir. Cook on low heat for another 10 minutes or until it reached the desired thickness. The longer you wait, the thicker it will get,