Of all the amazing perks of living in Serbia, one is the incredible food that I discovered and consistently eat here, specifically pasulj! Although there are many dishes I have learned to love, most of the secret recipes lie with the few who make it well. Pasulj is a dish that I am able to make, and cannot get enough of… and it’s literally beans. ‘Wow, beans. Cool.’ – that is probably you, and was also me, when I first was served a dish of beans for dinner. Boy was I wrong and you will see why when you try it! I’ve sent this recipe to a few friends and family and it’s definitely worth sharing with the rest of you!
Ingredients List ( * for optional):
- Raw beans (really, of your choice)
- Yellow Onions
- Paprika/Salt/Pepper/Bay Leaves*
1. Buy your raw beans! Lima beans are the best, or so I’ve read online, for if you’re located in the US.
2. Put the beans in a pot of water and soak overnight (or about 12 hours)! Make sure you have enough water so the beans won’t be able to soak it all up, as beans will take in quite a large amount. This step is super important as it keeps the gassy effect away after your meal, according to our friend Mladen Magić…
3. Strain the beans and get ready to start cooking! Put the beans with cold water on high heat until the water is boiling. Once the water is boiling, strain the beans, and then put them back on the stove with ALREADY boiling water. Cook them for about 45 min. You don’t want them hard on the outside, but you don’t want them all the way cooked through the middle either. About 70% done is perfect.
4. While you are boiling the beans, slice up 3-4 onions in the way to get the longest pieces and cook these on the stove with olive oil until golden yellow. You don’t want these to be brown or caramelized! Add your preferred spices (salt, pepper, paprika is popular and maybe bay leaves). For every pound of beans you’re cooking, you’ll want at least a pound of onions. Cook these low and slow! This should probably be roughly a 30 minute process.
5. Heat up your oven to 375 F (190.5 C).
6. Get ready to layer! Once the beans and onions are done, strain the beans and set the onions aside. Cut slices of garlic cloves, the amount varies for your preferred taste. I typically cut up 2-3 garlic cloves. If you have any bones, cured meat or anything raw you can use that in this dish and should! However if it’s raw, make sure you get some color on it first for extra flavor. Just put a pan on the stove and get all sides as evenly colored as possible. Nenad and I like to use cured chunks of bacon!
7. Get your baking dish (preferably clay, but glass is great too). This next step you can do one of two ways. Either throw in the beans with the seasoned and cooked onions and mix it all together (pictured above) … or wait and do it in layers. If you want to layer, then lay down some onions on the bottom of the dish, not too much. Add some beans, some garlic slices, and seasoning. Repeat until full. Make sure to add your meat somewhere in between the top and bottom layer so it’s neither exposed to the surface or touching the bottom of the pan.
8. Once your layered dish is ready, mix it all up! Get all those flavors spread out nice and even! Once done, check the positioning of the meat again and then fill the dish with a half-stock half-water solution! You just want the liquid you’re adding to fill up to the beans. You don’t want them completely submerged but you don’t want them completely exposed either.
Serbian Nenad’s tip: if you aren’t using meat, use mostly stock. If you are using meat, depending how salty your stock is, use more water. The more punch your stock has the more water you’ll want to use.
9. Put your dish in the oven and check it every 20-30 minutes. Add water if you need to in order to keep the fluid level where it should be, which is at the same level it was when you put the dish in the oven. I usually have to add water about two times. Watch and try your beans to determine when they’re ready, but it definitely won’t be done under 1.5 hours. You’re probably looking at 2-2.5 hours cooking time!
10. Once you pull them out, let them sit for about 10 minutes. Slice up about 2 tbs (about 28.35 g) of butter and roll that in flour. Add it to the beans and stir it up! This will help thicken the solution as they’ll be still watery at first. I like to add some cheese to the top and put them back in to get the crispy surface, but that’s up to you! When they’re done, let them sit another 10-20 minutes so they continue to thicken as they cool.
11. *OPTIONAL STEP* I like to take out the meat that I added. I’m not a meat person in general so I just like the flavor, not the actual product. If you’re a meat lover then consider cutting up the cooked meat for serving!
12. Prijatno! (In Serbia you’ll say this to accompany whenever yourself or others are eating! It’s like saying bon apetit)
There you have it. Rather simple, but extremely delicious and I hope you give it a go! It’s a dish that will not disappoint!