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Solin beans

Ingredients: (for six servings) 500g beans (or 80g per person), 3l water, celery, parsley, garlic, onion, carrot, two handfuls of canned tomatoes, 250ml of oil, smoked meat or similar, one spoon of ground red pepper, two spoons flour

Isn't it great to have a nice plate of beans? Can you imagine any better food, especially when it's so cold that you can eat until you're really full? Perhaps I've already told you about this, but I have never tasted nicer beans, with the exception of those cooked at Medo's kitchen, than those that my mother would bring around 2 o'clock in the afternoon, from the canteen at Dalmacijacement, where she worked as a clerk. Those cooks really knew how to make nice beans. But for a while, when people figured out how to divide the lunch vouchers into several portions of beans, you weren't allowed to take the beans out from the canteen, and you could only eat the dish within the factory.
Nevertheless, our lot is always quick to find ways to indulge themselves and to make life easier, so my mother, along with some other women, would take half a loaf of bread, scoop out the inside and fill it up with beans and carry it home like that. The bread served at the canteen had a crust that was hard enough to survive being filled with the beans! And secondly, I always remember the beans served for the Labour Day celebrations on 1 May. It is sort of a tradition, I guess, to eat workers' food on the International Worker's Day. Since Medo and his crew cooked a cauldron of beans for the occasion, we decided to be useful, too, and prepared several recipes for you.
First, the cooks at the Gašpić kitchen soaked the beans the day before, because the longer you soak them, says Medo, the better they are cooked. It's also good to change the water because the beans can release juices that we don't want in the dish.
"I cook this dish almost like a soup," says Medo. For six people, the recipe goes like this. We put the beans (approximately 80g per person) into a pot filled with three litres of water. Then we slowly cook it like a soup. We cut the celery, parsley, garlic, onion, carrot and add these to the pot, seasoning with salt, pepper and some oil. We then add two handfuls of canned tomatoes. This is the simplest way to do it, because you mash the tomatoes with your fists. Then you leave the mixture to cook for approximately one hour.
"Meanwhile, boil the smoked meat separately, so that it is not too salty when you add it to the beans. You can use whatever meat you like: ham, bacon, homemade sausage, ribs or đologan - as my mother called the bone in prosciutto," adds Medo.
We cook the smoked meat for about 20 minutes until it releases its juices. We heat 150ml of oil and cook 3-4 chopped cloves of garlic, then we add two spoons of flour until it thickens and add a spoon of red ground pepper to make it nice and red (if the mixture is too thick, you can add a ladle of the beans and the soup). Add the entire mixture to the beans and cook for ten minutes. Again, season the dish to taste by adding salt and pepper," explains Medo.
If you get bored with eating beans this way, you can add some cubed potatoes to the beans, or you can make pasta and beans. Simply add some pasta, preferably penne or rigatoni, to the beans and voila! When you are cooking the dish, before you add the flour-based thickener, you may take out some of the beans if you cooked a larger amount, and you can freeze them or prepare a bean salad. To prepare the salad, cut some shallots (if in season), and add them to the beans together with olive oil, salt, pepper and vinegar, and if you want to make it richer, you can add some previously cooked chickpeas.
And if you have some cooked meat left over from the soup (something that never happens to me) you can make a bean pickle. The recipe is similar to the bean salad, but this time you add the chopped cooked meat, and if you want to make your dish original, you can grate some cheese on top of the pickle. And finally, enjoy your meal with bevanda, which is in my opinion indispensable when eating beans. I hope that you will be able to see this dish from the photos which I took instead of Jakov this time. Our photographer had to take a trip abroad, to see how they cook in Amsterdam so that he can tell us some interesting stories when he returns.

Source: „What Will I Cook Today?" –  Notes from Medo's Kitchen
Text: Mia Sesartić, Recipes: Zoran Kljaković Gašpić – Medo