Tuesday 24 September 2013

The Big Bean Experiment

When I was in Istanbul earlier this year, the dish that stuck in my memory the most (apart from kaymak - who forgets clotted cream with honey? Not me) was the beans at Fasuli and Hayvore. Enormous white beans were cooked until creamy, in a tomato-tinged sauce. Served on a bed of beige buttered rice, it was comfort food to the max. As the days turned a bit chilly, I craved it. 

I scoured the menus online of well-known and not so well known Turkish restaurants. I contacted Mangal 2 on twitter. It was unanimous; while a lot of them did braised green beans in tomato sauce, none did what I was looking for. I resigned myself to a long, lengthy experimental process, not least because of how I think the dish is made. What I did know is that they're definitely beans cooked from dried, given the creamy texture. I knew they were cooked in lamb stock, given the flavour. Simple, right?

Needless to say, my first version isn't anywhere near the one I had in Istanbul. I have a habit of over-complicating things; a little dash of this, a shake of that. The sauce was too tomato, too spiced. From the photos on my travels, it needs to be more of an oily dressing than a sauce, a mere coating. Nevertheless it was delicious, but in its own sort of way. Mark 1 out the way, and onto Mark 2. 

Fasuli, Mark 1

Serves 4

250gr dried butter beans

Cover the beans in plenty of cold water overnight, or at least 8 hours. Drain, then simmer for 15 mins and drain. 

3 pieces of bone-in lamb stewing pieces
1 onion 
1 carrot 
1 stick of celery

Place the lamb in a pot of boiling water and simmer for 3 minutes to bring the scum to the surface, so it doesn't end up in your final dish. I'm too lazy to skim. Drain the lamb and wash the pot thoroughly, and also give the lamb pieces a little rinse. 

Simmer the lamb in 500mls of water with the carrot, onion halved, skin on and celery, lid on for an hour. Remove the lamb pieces and sieve into a measuring jug. Remove any lamb meat from the bones.

2 onions, diced
5 tbsp butter 
1 can of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp Turkish chilli flakes
A dash of ground cinnamon
A dash of ground allspice
A pinch of ground cumin
And since I went mental on the spices, I thought - why not just add some green beans in there too. 

Melt the butter in a pan and sweat the onions until very soft and transluscent. Add the spices and cook well. Add the tomato puree, then the tinned tomatoes, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the beans, green beans and the lamb stock and simmer for 45 mins to an hour, stirring regularly so it doesn't stick. In the last 20 minutes add in the lamb meat picked off the bones.

Serve with white buttered rice.

See what I mean about a lengthy process? 


Ino said...

That turkish dish sounds very much like greek gigantes, giant butter beans in tomato sauce. It looks a bit like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gigandes_plaki
The only thing is that we don't use lamb so maybe it tastes a bit different... I can give you my mum's recipe if you'd like to give it a go though :)

Alex said...

Fasoulia is in Elizabeth David; Mediterranean Food I think. She uses haricots, and as you say a little tomato and loads of olive oil, then dressed with a little finely sliced raw onion. Totally delicious.

Richard Elliot said...

Did you bring any spices home from Istanbul? I brought back a big batch of what was described as 'hot red pepper paste' which is excellent in dishes like this.

Hollow Legs said...

Ino - I would love it! Please send. Thanks!

Alex - OH. That sounds amazing. Looking it up immediately.

Richard - I brought home sumac and chilli flakes... which I'd got that though!

Unknown said...

These look amazing! I love beans so much, such an under-rated ingredient!

Ino said...

Well now. This is embarrassingly late, but I just got back to Greece, and mum is making it for lunch, so I remembered about this! This is too vague to be a recipe, but might be useful :)

She soaked the (huge!) butter beans overnight, and boiled them today. Of course if you buy tinned you don't need the soaking, just a quick boil to soften them (if that...).

She then sauteed chopped onion, garlic, celery, carrot, parsley, dill, green and red (and a couple of spicy ones) peppers. On the peppers, if you can find the long light green ones (turkish peppers they're called I think) they are ideal. After they softened, she added the beans, chopped fresh tomatoes and some passata, salt and pepper, mixed and added to a baking tray and into the oven for 30-40 minutes.

As usual with greek food, the secret is plenty of olive oil ;) Serve with lots of feta and lovely bread. :)