Monday, August 17, 2015

Ham and Bean Stew

One of the dishes I enjoyed a lot in Spain was a bean stew -- which was surprising to me since beans are not exactly high up on my favourite food list.  

But this dish called Judiones de la Granja that I had at El Soportal in Pedraza de la Sierra was an eye opener and totally made me look at beans in a new light.  
This savoury stew is made with large white beans called judiones that originally come from Segovia.  Nowadays I suppose they're grown everywhere in Spain.  Since Pedraza de la Sierra is part of Segovia, it was understandable that this dish was offered as a primero plato or appetiser.
It was such a simple dish but oh so rich and scrumptious --  the judiones were tender and creamy, 
the sauce  had a deep smoky and meaty flavour  -- I was sure it was made with drippings from the cochinillo that El Soportal is famous for.

 I had hoped to bring home a pound or two of judiones but did not get around to it.  So when I wanted to try and make my own bean stew at home, I had to use what is readily available -- dried white kidney beans.

Since I did not have any lavish pork drippings to flavour my stew, I resorted to salty-sweetish Majestic Ham.  I was worried that it would transform my attempt at a Spanish bean stew to a chinese bean dish but I needn't have worried.  It added that smoky ham taste that livened up the kidney beans. I would have wanted a more saucy dish but this was not at all bad for a first try.  Served with toasted melba rounds, it was a delicious one dish meal.

Here's how to make this ham and bean stew:

Dried white kidney beans
Majestic Ham,  chopped -- get the scraps or bits, cheaper and just as much flavour
Garlic,  onions, tomatoes
Chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Bay leaf

How to cook
Soak the beans in cold water for at least 8 hours.  Drain and set aside.
Saute garlic, onions and tomatoes.
Add the ham bits and render whatever ham fat there is, for richer flavour.
Add beans and cook together.
Then, add the stock, enough to cover the beans.  Add one bay leaf.
Simmer on low heat for about 2.5 to 3 hours or until beans are tender and stock is reduced
and slightly thickened.

Serve hot with rice or melba toast, for a lighter meal.

This keeps well and tastes even better when reheated.

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