Broad beans and chick pea maneštra and soups

Interesting combinations of beans and all kinds of meat, fish or seafood are prepared ranging from northern Croatia all the way to the very south of the Adriatic.

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Soups, stews or maneštra (vegetable stew traditional to Istria) are a combination of traditional family get-togethers, small culinary pleasures and blending different ingredients in an interesting way. They keep us warm and cosy and boost our health. In most cases they serve as a perfect illustration of the landscape that gave rise to them.

Broad beans and chick pea are definitely the main beans used in Mediterranean cuisine. They are an indispensible ingredient in Dalmatian menus and are incresingly being recognised by restaurants as well.

Whilst broad beans are used freshly cleaned from the pod, chick pea is dried or preserved and then used in a plethora of dishes. They’re a common ingredient in vegetarian specialties. They go great with pasta, they complement other vegetables and it’s not unusual to find them in combination with seafood, shellfish or fish.

Aside from soups, broad beans and chick pea are often used to make purée and spreads. When prepared with basic Mediterranean spices such as rosemary, sage, hot chilli peppers, fresh or sun-dried tomatoes and just a few drops of olive oil, they can also be used as a main ingredient with pasta, rice or couscous. These quick and simple dishes will knock your guest off their feet.

Restaurants right across Dalmatia prepare classic traditional kinds of maništre, and they revealed some of these ancient recipes to us. The Bašić family runs restaurant Boba in Murter. They’ve managed to preserve traditional Kornat dishes with broad beans and chick pea ones being held in high regard. Under the close supervision of owner and head chef Vjekoslav Bašić they prepare true sailors’ delicacies such as Kornat cuttlefish and chick pea mineštron (soup), leek and chick pea soup or tagliata with broad beans cream and cuttlefish ink chips.

- Kornat mineštron with cuttlefish and chick pea is our traditional rendition of an almost forgotten dish. Considering the fact that chick pea has been somewhat forgotten, we always go to great lengths to obtain it from local producers. Luckily there are some, but not that many. Even though finding them was no mean feat, I can tell you that there are several producers in the surrounding area. Chick pea is harvested in July and August. Its harvest and drying is a very demanding process. Prior to preparing dried chick pea, you have to soak it in water for six to twelve hours. You prepare the dish by braising the scallion and diced potatoes, then you add garlic, fresh cuttlefish and you pour it over with fish stock. When the cuttlefish is braised, we add the chick pea and cook them together. When mineštron starts simmering, we kick it off by adding pipe rigate pasta known locally as šupoljki. The dish is ready once the pasta is done.

Husband and wife Mialić are the owers of bistro Pjat, in Zadar. They use their culinary stories to familiarise their guests with authentic Dalmatian cuisine. Head chef Anita Mialić revealed her čičvarda and mussel soup recipe. By the way, čičvarda is the local name for chick pea.

- Čičvarda is soaked in water for a day or two before we prepare it. Once I place it in the cooking bowl, I fill the bowl with water as well. The water should be two fingers above the chick pea. I also add some rosemary, olive oil, fleur de sal made exclusively by Nin salt pans, pepper and two to three whole garlic cloves.  When everything is done, I remove all the spices and garlic and blend it using an immersion blender. I place the mussels on olive oil in another pan, pour them over with white wine, mostly Welschriesling or Malvasia. When the mussels are open, I pour chick pea soup over them. Prior to serving the dish, you can drizzle it with olive oil and sometimes I add a bit of fresh rosemary.

There’s another Zadar bistro, namely, bistro Gourmet Kalelarga located in the city’s historic centre. They make a simple broad beans cream soup and chef Sanel Mehanigić shared the recipe with us.

- First I braise the onion and then add some vegetable stock. I add diced potatoes and broad beans to the stock, add some salt and a bit of olive oil. The soup is done once the potatoes turn soft. If you like, you can add cooking cream to the soup. Then you blend everything and filtrate the soup so as to remove broad beans shell. The soup is served with regular sour cream and olive oil.