Monday, 20 May 2013

Fabada Asturiana

I love royal families. When Kate and Wills finally came out with the news of the long-awaited engagement, I'm fairly certain I cried. Luckily later I, too, got to see that sometimes years of relentless waiting and unfaltering belief in happy ends do pay off!

Before the wedding of Swedish Crown Princess Victoria and her chosen one, Daniel I had researched weeks in advance how to stream the wedding live in Spain. I was hospitalized the night before, but fortunately I was discharged a couple of hours before the wedding, so when it started, I was exactly where I was supposed to: firmly in front of the laptop, wearing a tiara and clutching a glass of Champagne.  An hour later I came around under the table, though tiara firmly in its place. Turned out that the numerous drugs I was sent home from the hospital with really didn't go with alcohol. See, another reason to learn the local lingo.

Perhaps it's because of that language barrier that I've never grown very close to the Spanish royal family. Though of course I like them too. Especially the Crown Prince Felipe (whose full name, in a charmingly understated manner is Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos (et omnes sancti) de Borbón y de Grecia). His title: the Prince of Asturia.

Asturia is an autonomy located in the Northern Spain. Their most famous dish is, without a doubt, Fabada Asturiana - Asturian sausage and bean stew. And what could be a better way to try and forge a friendship with morcilla, that legendary Asturian blood sausage I had brought home with me.  

Letizia, Felipe's wife and the future Queen has some seriously gorgeous shoes, but she is to skinny there's no way she's often gone overboard with this Asturian traditional delicacy...

When done the proper way the process starts the day before. That's when you start soaking the beans, ham bones, pork belly, pig's ears (and what ever else you're using). The next day they'd be placed in a pot with some water. When the water starts to boil, you'd add chorizo, morcilla and other meats and then you'd keep on slowly stewing them for a couple of hours. I, on the other hand, chose pre-cooked beans and a short cut that will get you a bowl of steamy stew in less than half an hour.

The dish itself is very simple and very much like the French cassoulet and the Portuguese feijoada, the ingredients are simple too: cheap cuts, sausages and beans. This is exactly the sort rustic dish that offers warmth and comfort in the middle of the cold winter. Apart from pimiento and saffron this doesn't even call for much spices - the earthiness of the morcilla and the kick from the chorizo take care of that on their own. 

Like with pork, my relationship with blood has been wrought with complications. This is actually the first time I've ever cooked a blood dish. In its smoky toastiness and earthy pungeance morcilla is even more robust that the English black pudding and I must say I'm not entirely sold just yet...

For 3

150 g chorizo
125 g morcilla (or black pudding)
5 slices of the side of the pork (or thick cut bacon)
2 tins of cooked white beans (not in tomato sauce) which is roughly 1/2 kg beans
1 tsp pimiento
pinch (appr. 1/6 tsp) saffron
1 dl stock
3 dl water

Rinse the beans. Cut the sausages into 1 cm slices. Heat the pan and toss in the sausages. Once they start releasing their own fat (make sure the pan isn't too hot - otherwise they will just burn), add the side of pork/ bacon. Then add stock and water. Carefully fold in the beans. Add saffron (either as is or mixed with a little bit of boiling water) and pimiento. Let cook under lid on medium heat for 20-30 minutes until the sausages and pork are cooked all the way through. Every now and then check there's still liquid left and add more if needed. Don't stir too vigorously of the beans will just fall apart and become mushy. Season with black pepper (optional) - there really shouldn't be any need for salt. In case you find the aromas too smoky, a dash of lemon juice or lemon zest will lift and freshen up the flavours.

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