Imagine a rustic home in a remote, mountainous village in Greece, far removed from the perils of modern life. The goats wander free in the fields and the sky is so close that the tops of the olive trees seem to kiss it. Days are spent cultivating the land, conversing with the few neighbours you have, and tending to the animals. The air is fresh and the ground fertile; both untainted by social progress. After a long day of physical, yet satisfying and productive work, you come home to a steaming bowl of fasolatha, which has been cooking in a cast iron pot in the hearth of your fireplace. If you are particularly lucky, you get to enjoy it with some freshly baked bread and a glass of homemade wine. Life, you surmise, is perfect.
Now, we realize that if you are reading this post you are doing so on-line, in front of an electronic device, and are probably not in a remote, mountainous horio (that’s Greek, for village). Neither are we, but for some reason this recipe makes us think that we should be. Maybe it’s because this simple soup asks that you throw everything into a pot and let it cook slowly for about an hour, giving you enough time to, we don’t know, till the soil? Maybe it’s the fact that there is nothing fancy here; no special, expensive ingredients and no complicated culinary terms. It is humble, the way we imagine village life to be. Simple, honest, and so, so good for you.
There are two general classes of fasolatha recipes, those which are tomato based (also delicious), and those, like the one we have here, which are flavoured with lemon and whose broth is white-ish. There may be a special name for this type of fasolatha, but we don’t know what it is. Neither do our parents…they just call it φασολάδα με λεμόνι (fasolatha with lemon).
The white kidney beans should be soaked before they are cooked. Technically, we think that you can cook with un-soaked beans, but the cooking time will be much, much longer, and the beans may be more difficult to digest. Our parents usually soak their beans overnight, but we have sometimes soaked our beans for much longer (because soup-making plans sometimes get interrupted with other things…like life). In any case, if your beans end up soaking longer than 12 hours or so, keep them in the refrigerator. In a pinch, we guess you can use canned kidney beans, but if you can pre-plan and used dried, we strongly suggest it.
As your soup is cooking, check on it periodically. If you are finding that your soup has very little liquid and there is still plenty of boiling to do, add more water. You don’t want your beans and vegetables to get stuck on the bottom of the pan and burn.
This recipe will give you a soup that is pretty creamy, particularly after you add the flour and lemon juice mixture at the end. If you happen to have a gluten intolerance, or simply don’t want to use the flour, omit it. The flavour of the soup will be the same; it just won’t be as thick.
Mia Kouppa: Fasolatha
- 1 and 2/3 cups dry white kidney beans (about 345 grams)
- 1 medium onion
- 2 carrots
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 leek (white part only)
- 1/2 cup Greek olive oil
- 9 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- juice of 2 lemons
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- Rinse the beans and soak them in cool water for 12-24 hours, changing the water at least once.
- Chop all the vegetables into chunks which are about the size of the soaked kidney beans. It is not an exact science, so don’t worry about it too much.
- In a large pot saute the chopped up vegetables in the olive oil for approximately 5 minutes over medium high heat, stirring regularly. Be careful that the vegetables do not burn.
- To the pot add the drained kidney beans, 9 cups of water, and the salt. Bring to a boil. Once you have reached a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cover partially (do not fully cover the pot with it’s lid so that you let a bit of steam escape). Cook for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally and checking your soup to be sure that it does not require more water.
- After 60 minutes test your beans for doneness. They should be soft and creamy. If they are not, allow to cook for a while longer until you get to this point.
- Remove 1/2 cup of the soup liquid and place it in a bowl. To this bowl add the juice of 2 lemons and 3 tablespoons flour. Whisk together so that there are not lumps of flour visible. Return this mixture to the pot of soup. Stir well.
- Continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Enjoy.