White kidney beans (in Greek “fasolia xera”) are the most widely eaten legumes in Greece and of course on the island of Crete. They are usually eaten in the form of a vegan bean soup, what Greeks call “fasolada”. There are various ways to prepare it, depending on where you are. Cretans make their “fasolada” using tomato juice from freshly squeezed tomatoes, carrots, celery and of course extra virgin olive oil! In Crete “fasolada” is casually eaten usually during weekdays mainly in wintertime. Cretan “fasolada” evokes great memories of family dinners after a hard day’s work. To us, this food is a synonym of calm and rest and is a great finish of an active winter day. It is therefore with great pleasure that we provide this traditional recipe full of colour and taste.
White kidney beans are gluten free (as all legumes) and are full of health benefits. They are rich in fiber and low in calories, therefore qualifying as diet friendly. Furthermore, they are a great source of protein and magnesium, while they maintain a low glycemic index (good for your blood sugar level). “Fasolada” is a delicious detox starchy dish full of antioxidants. The healthiness score is a 3 out of 3 (🥑🥑🥑) as the dish is fully beneficial to the body.
The recipe below feeds approximately 6 people as a main dish. Cooking time is around 60 mins depending on the particular white kidney beans we use as some beans cook faster than others. Consequently the time score is 2 out of 3 (⌛⌛). We find the dish really tasty, comforting and healthy and give it an overall score of 2 out of 3 (😋😋).
Tip: you can shorten cooking time by 10 to 20 % (depending on the beans) by soaking the beans into water for approximately 12 hours (for example you can soak them the night before).
White kidney beans are widely sold in Mediterranean countries. In other countries, such beans can be sometimes found in conventional supermarkets and can be always found in Greek and Mediterranean grocery stores. Therefore the ingredients score is 2 out of 3 (🔎🔎). The ingredients are as follows:
- 500 gr white kidney beans
- 1 big onion finely chopped
- 4 medium sized carrots chopped in slices
- 1 small bunch of celery
- 350 gr of fresh tomato juice (preferably) or passata
- 1 liter of water (approximately) to start with. More water to be added gradually if necessary during boiling.
- 2 teaspoons of salt (approximately)
- 1 tea cup of extra virgin olive oil (should be always added at the end)
In terms of preparation score, it receives 2 out of 3 (🍳🍳) as it requires close supervision. The timing of actions is very important when you cook legumes! Follow the steps below:
- Add the beans into the water in a relatively high pan and bring to boil.
- (Optional) After 10 mins of boiling, strain the beans, and put them again into the pan with new boiling water (you can use a kettle). Keep boiling the mixture.
- This step of discarding the initial boiling water makes bean soup lighter for our digestive system.
- After about 20 mins from the beginning of boiling (in 10 mins if you perform the previous step), when the beans get a bit softer (try them!), add the onion, carrots, celery and tomato juice.
- Wait approximately 30 mins while the mixture keeps boiling, until all ingredients get softer. During this time keep adding boiling water (if necessary) to cover the mixture, as water evaporates.
- Add the salt.
- Wait approximately 20 mins until the beans are cooked and turn off the hob.
- Add the extra virgin olive oil and stir thoroughly.
- “Fasolada” is ready to be served.
- (Optional) Grind some black pepper on to of your “fasolada” to give it a warmer and spicier touch.
It is important that olive oil is added the end of the cooking for two reasons: (1) it retains its full taste and (2) it retains all its nutritional value, some of which is destroyed with cooking.
“Fasolada” is greatly accompanied by any type of salted and/or smoked fish, such as sardines (“sardeles”), anchovies (“antsougies”), herring (“renga”) or mackerel (“skoumpri”). The acute saltiness of such fish greatly balances out the starchiness of the soup.
Cretans also accompany their lentil soup with some mildly salty and spicy Cretan cheese such as “Graviera”, “Touloumotiri” or “Feta”.
For the meat lovers, the soup could be also accompanied with any type of cured meat products, such as salami or mortadella.
Last but not least, our bean soup requires some bread to go with, preferably a healthy Cretan wholemeal bread. Follow this link (Cretan healthy bread with a breadmaker) to see our version of delicious Cretan wholemeal bread. If you prefer the traditional hand made bread version follow this link (handmade Cretan healthy bread).
Recipe last edited: 03/02/2019
© Recipe and photos by Agisilaos Papadogiannis