Healthy vegan borlotti bean soup made with fresh beans
Σούπα από φρέσκα φασόλια. Greeks who immigrated from Greece in search of a better life, the way our parents did, worked hard to learn the language of their new country. Most did this without formal schooling or structured classes. Many, like our mom, learned to communicate by watching television and by listening to co-workers or people on the bus or the salespeople in shops. This, while also learning to adapt to a new climate, new social contexts and expectations, and the newness of no longer living under the protective wing of family. When we think about it, and we think about it often, we are so impressed and so proud of our parents, and the countless others like them who leave a life they know behind and come to a new land to enrich it, and themselves. These are brave and inspiring stories.
If you have been following us for a while, you’ll know that our parents immigrated to Montreal from Messinia in the Peloponnese, on the mainland of Greece. They arrived in a city that had a growing Greek community. This was fortunate because all they spoke at the time was Greek, and the few words of English they would have learned prior to sailing across the ocean. But as they settled, and got acclimated, they learned. They were suddenly, to some extent at least, bilingual and in some cases even trilingual having learned both English and French. This linguistic mix of old with new, native with foreign, Greek with English, gave rise to a whole new set of words; a unique lexicon of the community. For example, Greeks spoke of the Parkavaneika, where many of them lived and bought homes, to refer to Park Avenue and surrounding streets found in the Mile End district which boasted a strong Greek community. They also spoke of Zandalon in reference to all things related to Jean Talon street, but usually used to refer to the Jean Talon Market. Early on Saturday mornings we would often be dragged out of bed and told that we were heading to Zandalon. We rarely complained.
Jean Talon Market is a special place, and it’s one of North America’s largest open-air markets. It has been around since 1933 and since that time it has seen, fed, inspired and brought together legions of people from every cultural background. It is where we go every year to purchase tomatoes for our homemade tomato sauce. It is where our parents purchase rooster to make meals like stewed rooster with okra and potatoes and it is where we buy huge bags filled with fresh borlotti beans to make borlotti bean soup.
As kids we can remember going to Jean Talon Market at the end of summer or early fall and following our parents around as they searched for the kiosk selling the largest bags of borlotti beans. They would buy as many as we could carry and we would walk away having swung the large burlap sacks over our shoulders. If you had a shoulder, you had a bag; it was fun getting on public transportation like that. Once home the kitchen table would be covered in last week’s Greek newspapers and the bags emptied. As a family we would spend hours removing the beans from the pods. We would have borotti soup for dinner and our parents would portion out and freeze the rest of the beans out to be enjoyed throughout the year.
What are borlotti beans?
Borlotti beans (also called romano beans or cranberry beans) are a creamy, nutritious and delicious bean that is pretty too! They are a light beige colour and are speckled with red or dark brown. Unfortunately when cooked, they lose their speckled beauty and turn into a uniform light brown colour. They are similar to kidney beans and can be used in soups like our borlotti bean soup, stews, casseroles and salads.
What are fresh borlotti beans?
Fresh borlotti beans are a special find. If you happen to see the white and red specked pods at a farmer’s market, be sure to pick them up; their season is short and they really are a specialty item in North America. Because of this they are more expensive than the dried variety.
How to shell fresh borlotti beans?
Split apart the curved inside seam of the bean pod with our thumb and remove the beans. Do this over a bowl to catch the beans.
How to store fresh beans.
Fresh borlotti beans will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. If you plan to freeze the beans, you can blanch them quickly in boiling water, drain and allow to dry well and then freeze in portions in freezer safe containers or bags. This is conventional wisdom. However, our parents admitted to never blanching the beans; they simply freeze them as they are and they then make delicious borlotti bean soup and other recipes.
Do you have to soak fresh borlotti beans?
No you don’t! Fresh borlotti beans can be cooked without pre-soaking. Dry borlotti beans, like other dry beans however, have to be soaked for at least 12 hours, or overnight.
Can you use dry borlotti beans in this borlotti bean soup?
Of course! Just be sure to soak your dry beans overnight or for at least 12 hours. You will want to use 250 grams of dry beans in this recipe.
Love borlotti bean soup and want more bean soup recipes? Check these out:
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Borlotti bean soup
- 1 medium pot optional
- 500 grams fresh Borlotti beans shelled See Recipe Note
- 1 red onion, diced
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 medium carrot, diced
- 2¼ cups water
- 1¼ cup tomato sauce or passata
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
Prepare your beans
- If you are using fresh Barlotti beans, remove the beans from the pods until you have 500 grams or approximately 3 cups.500 grams fresh Borlotti beans
- Place your beans in a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
- While your beans are boiling, in a second large pot heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion for 3 - 5 minutes, until softened. Stir regularly so that your onion does not burn. Add in the carrot and saute for an additional 2 - 3 minutes.¼ cup olive oil, 1 medium carrot, diced, 1 red onion, diced
- Drain your barlotti beans and add them to the pot containing the onions and carrot. Add the water and tomato sauce and cook, uncovered, for 30 - 40 minutes, or until your beans are tender. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy!2¼ cups water, 1¼ cup tomato sauce or passata, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper