The first rule when preparing beans is that they should be soaked in water in the evening so that they get soft by the morning, the time of the preparation is lowered and the beans are easier to digest. Owing to their nutritional composition, the beans are very nutritious, they are perfect in the vegetarian cuisine, and given their mild taste, they go perfectly with many other foodstuffs. The beans are often accompanied with vegetables from the same family of legumes, then root vegetables, peppers, and tomatoes, all unavoidable foodstuffs that are used with the beans. With soups, minestrones and stews, the beans can be used to prepare spreads, casseroles, salads, sauces, and interesting side dishes to meat or fish.
For the said reasons, dishes of beans are readily cooked by restaurants as well, whether in a desire of their staffs to preserve the traditional cuisine or due to a sheer need to offer guests an always willingly consumed dish on which they grew up. The secrets of good beans, whether in form of salad, in stew, goulash, or boiled on open fire or maybe in earthenware were disclosed to us by our restaurants. We set off on a tasting journey from Baranja. The picturesque village of Karanac settled in the heart of Baranja boasts the well known family-run Baranjska Kuća Restaurant. Baranjska Kuća prepares traditional dishes, from fish porridges to perkelt to goulash, and the unavoidable beans have the status of the top delicacy fit for a king. Bean goulash prepared in earthenware on open fire can be only tasted in Baranja, and the manner of cooking was shared with us by the owner of the restaurant, Vladimir Škrobo.
“Baranjska Kuća is reputed for bean goulash in earthenware, and we also prepare beans in a kettle and baked beans. We cook the bean goulash in an earthen pot with the 8l volume. We soak the beans in water a day earlier, and we also boil dry meat in water in advance. The beans are boiled on open fire with red onion, chopped carrot cylinders and parsley, and two dried hot peppers being added in the pot. When the beans start boiling, we cook it for two more hours. While the beans are simmering, you prepare goulash of fresh pork shoulder blade. We chop the pork in cubes, fry them on garlic and add some water. When everything starts boiling, we add a table spoon of ground peppers on 1kg meat, and then homemade tomato sauce. When the first part of the beans is nearly completed, we also add three spoons of sweet peppers and tomato sauce. As the beans start boiling, we add the prepared goulash and all together, they are cooked for another half an hour. When the beans and goulash are combined, they are stirred only then. We know that it is finished when we put a wooden ladle in it and it is able to stand independently in the pot. When we serve it, it can be easily consumed with a fork. The bean goulash achieves thickness from the vegetables and cooking, and we never put flour. Also, it has to be more red than brown. We most often serve salad of ground radish with pumpkin seed oil and homemade maize bread baked in a wood fired oven.”
In the centre of baroque Varaždin, the Verglec Restaurant is one of the places from the culinary postcards of Varaždin. The Verglec is the first restaurant in Croatia awarded the Croatian Autochthonous Cuisine license, for its perseverant work on preservation of the traditional cuisine. As an important item of the local cuisine, the beans are unavoidable in the Verglec Restaurant as well, and the way they are prepared there was conjured up to us by the chief of the kitchen, Zdenka Pajtak.
“Within the brunch, we always prepare beans with cabbage or beet, and we also always have bean salad and Zagorje stewed beans in our constant offer. For the salad, we soak the beans a day earlier to soften them, and we boil them in salty water together with bay leaves. We also chop red onion in the salad, and put some pumpkin seed oil, vinegar, salt and a little black pepper. The salad is most frequently served with breaded meat or fish.”
We also tasted the Zagorje stew.
“In the Zagorje stew, we put beans, potato, carrot, celery, bacon, and smoked bacon. First, we boil the beans in water, we put onion and bay leaves, as in any stew, and then we keep that water as the broth which we will put in the Zagorje stew. Then, we fry onion, vegetables, bean water, bacon, red ground pepper and tomato puree on some oil. The Zagorje stew must be of middle thickness, neither too thick nor too thin.
Samobor has always been renowned as the city where one can eat well. The culinary picture of the city has certainly been marked by the family-run Gostionica Dalmacija, which is managed by the second generation now. Along with local dishes, the restaurant decided to offer traditional dishes from across Croatia. As the beans are unavoidable in the culinary map of Croatia, they dedicated a few dishes to them. How they prepare them was retold us by the restaurant owner, Ivan Knezović.
“As we have solely traditional specialties in our menu and try constantly to cook dishes made of local products, beans are an unavoidable dish and guests love them. We prepare bean stew, beans with sour cabbage, beans with sour beet, beans with yellow carrot, beans with ričet or barley mash, and beans with fresh cabbage or braised cambage, and bean salad. A distinctive specific of our beans is that for each dish, we make broth in which we put beef bones, root vegetables from celery to parsley to carrot, pork skin and fried bacon. For stewed beans we use zelenček beans, and for salad we use trešnjevac.”
The gourmet charms and simplicity of the beans as a foodstuff have marked the culinary tradition of numerous countries throughout the world. As the beans farming has developed and become globalised over time, nowadays we know more than thirty types, and the standard traditional dishes are increasingly complemented with new culinary ideas with the beans.