Peasant food is something I will always surrender a bit of time for, especially when it comes to the peasant food from my parents home country, Croatia. When they left what was then Yugoslavia as young adults, my parents would have been trembling with excitement and fear as the plane touched down on Australian soil. Not one word of English, a handful of money and a whole new world to start a new life and family in.
I can only be thankful for the decisions they made as we really do live in the lucky country.
Nostalgia aside, one of the great recipes my mother brought with them is something very close to my heart. A simple, wholesome and nourishing bean soup made using a handful of ingredients.
The word basically means beans. The following recipe is not the exact copy of my mothers, but the outcome is pretty damn close. The use of paprika and flour is not so much used as a thickening agent, but to also add depth of flavour to the soup. Borlotti beans can be used, as can cannellini; I’ve even made this soup with black eyed beans.
In a large saucepan add the beans, water, bacon bones, celery, capsicum, bay leaves and onion. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about an hour, or until the beans are soft and well-cooked.
In a separate small frying pan, add oil and garlic and cook over low heat until light golden. Remove garlic and set aside. To the oil add the paprika and flour and stir to combine and let simmer for about a minute. Do not burn this. Put the garlic back into this roux.
When the beans are cooked remove the bones. Once cool enough to handle, pick the meat off the bones and add it to the soup along with the paprika mixture. Discard the bones. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes and check for seasoning. Depending on the salt content of the bones, you may not even need to add salt. Lots of pepper is fine.
Garnish with parsley leaves, a drizzle of virgin olive oil and serve with lots of fresh bread.