A few years ago we went to Asturias, which is a region in the northern Atlantic coast of Spain. It is mountainous, verdant, bountiful. It is also coooooooooold!!!! There is a dish that I have always been wary to try, Fabada Asturiana, because I didn’t like white beans. I love beans, black beans and red beans, but had never had white beans. I just thought they looked weird. Like white asparagus. I thought white beans looked like the pasty, malnourished cousin to the powerhouse of red and black beans. But, like all things that I generally “don’t like”, I had never really tried it.
So, when we were in Asturias, we went to eat at a friend of a friend’s house. And they brought out the Fabada. I didn’t know where to hide. Actually I couldn’t because we were in their kitchen and I was kind of sitting in the corner, so I couldn’t run either. My parents taught me well though, when you are at someone’s home, always eat what they put in front of you. So, I bucked up and took a bite. WOW. What a surprise. It was absolutely amazing, and the white beans were so much smoother and more mellow to their red and black counterparts, really letting the rest of the ingredients shine, but complementing them in such a perfect way. Fabada is a hearty, stick to your ribs winter stew. To tell you the truth, I can’t eat that often, because it is quite heavy, chock full of bacon, chorizo sausage, and morcilla (which is blood sausage). So this soup is my reinvention, and because it doesn’t cook down to stew form, but stays more like a soup, I feel it is a bit lighter. I also added tomatoes, leeks and carrots which Fabada does not have, but I needed a bit of vegetable to counter the amount of pork in this stew. I also omitted the sausage, because I wanted it less greasy. But by all means, toy and tinker with it. Make it your own. And for the ham bones, I used Serrano ham bones, but you can use regular if you can’t find them easily.
100 g thick cut bacon, in slices
3 tbsp olive oil
2 Iberian ham bones (or normal ham bones)
1.5 leeks, sliced
1/4 cup chinese cabbage, thick parts, sliced
7 cherry roma tomatoes, cut in half
2 tsp tomato paste
3 small sprigs of thyme
1.5 cups white beans, soaked overnight
3 liters water
1 carrot, sliced
1 morcilla sausage, sliced
Place the bacon, oil, ham bones and leeks in a heavy stock pot over medium high heat.
Saute for 15 minutes, or until the leeks are softened. Add the chinese cabbage and tomatoes, and saute another 10 minutes.
Add the tomato paste, thyme and let it caramelize, about 2-3 minutes
. Add your beans and water, cover and raise the heat to high.
Bring to a boil and lower the heat again to medium. Boil, covered, for about 1.5 hours, adding more water if it is getting too dry. When the beans are almost tender, add the carrot and the morcilla (blood sausage) and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Serve with hot crusty bread.
From my kitchen to yours,