Bosnian bean stew is a one-pot, hearty-stock stew made with just a few ingredients. It does take a couple of hrs to make (most of which you don’t have to be present for), but boy do good things come to those who wait!
Today I’m sharing a state secret with you!
For the first time ever written in English language, below is the recipe for a delicious Balkan bean stew concocted by no other than the JNA (Yugoslav National Army) cooks back in the 70s and 80s. (Unless of course someone else already translated it.)
I’ve noticed this recipe several times on Balkan websites in the past few weeks. It came with claims that this stew will DOMINATE all other Balkan bean stews ever made, for as long as you shall live. And longer. Yes, the descriptions were that dramatic.
As you know, I get beyond excited about any “secret” recipe, even though most of these secrets turn out to be total BS. But this recipe peaked my curiosity because:
- Army cooks are notorious for making amazing stews; and
- The recipe called for no meat and I was dubious a bean stew without meat could be any good.
Now if you’ve ever been a scout, or belonged to any outdoorsy club, you know the joys of eating under the sky with your buddies. (I won’t even go into this with all of you out there who’ve been in the army, because you experienced better than anyone the sheer happiness that is a stew which simmered for hours.) The outside air, the stars, the fire – in short the atmosphere – makes everything taste better.
Even something as simple as a sandwich, tastes like the best sandwich ever!
- 1/3 pound pinto or other dried beans
- 1 large onion (yellow or white)
- 2 medium carrots
- 1–2 small dried red chili peppers
- 1 bay leaf
- Pepper and salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 garlic clove (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- Soak beans in plenty of water (at least two inches above the beans) for 3 hours.*
- Drain beans, and discard water. Transfer beans into a pot in which you’ll be making the stew. Add 2 cups of fresh water. Cook on high for 15 minutes. Drain again and discard the water. Add 4-5 fresh cups of hot water, lower temperature to medium, and continue simmering the stew. Put dried chili peppers in a cup of water to soak.
- After 90 minutes, mince onion and carrots, and brown on a little bit of oil in a small pan. Transfer to the stew when done. Add dried peppers and bay leaf. Continue simmering the stew for another 90 minutes (the stew will simmer for at least 3 hours total).** Throughout this time, add a little bit of hot water to the stew if necessary, to keep the same level of liquid in the pot. Do not mix the stew at all to prevent the breakage of beans.
After the 3 hours, get the roux ready. Melt the butter in a small pan. Once it’s melted add flour a little at a time, all while whisking the mixture to prevent it from burning. After about 3-4 minutes, the roux will go from yellow to brown. Add minced garlic and paprika. Whisk everything for another minute.
- Add the roux to the stew by slowly pouring it in, while stirring the stew. Stirring will prevent the roux from clumping inside the stew, and instead will thicken the liquid nicely and evenly. Simmer everything for another 30 minutes. Try the stew and add salt and pepper to taste. Mince parsley and sprinkle over the stew. Serve hot, alone or with polenta, rice or pasta.
* Ideally, soak them overnight.
** The beans are about ready when they are chewy, but not falling apart, and definitely do not have a “crunch” when you bite into one.
Please note the photos are not indicative as to how much liquid is really in the stew. I removed a lot of it for photographing.