Grah – Croatian bean stew

Grah – Croatian bean stew

Osijek Croatian River Drava sunset

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.

Grah recept

Grah recept

Grah recept

Grah recept


serves 6-8


  • 375 g borlotti beans, soaked overnight (can be mixed with cannellini beans)
  • 2 litres water
  • 500 g bacon bones
  • 100 g celery, chopped (about 1 stick)
  • 50 g red capsicum, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small onion, peeled & chopped
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • parsley and virgin olive oil, to garnish


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.

  • Tatijana Kulas

    Ive used kidney beans in this dish and its ok… Just red kidney beans are a little more heavier in taste than the borlotti beans… Hope you like the Grah… I am from Zagreb Croatia and my husband is from the Coast Biograd na moru… so his cuisine and mine are a great combination… Bon Appetit Cheers

  • Sammy Black

    Great recipe John. I just wanted to note that before soaking or after first rinse of beans they should be sorted to make sure there aren’t any pebbles / dirt or rotten beans in the mix. I would also soak and then resoak and rinse the beans a few times to remove the enzymes that cause the gaseous side effects. 🙂 We’ve found the results a lot easier on the nose when rinsing and soaking a few times….. I look forward to seeing other treasures in your blog. Thank You

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