One thing I forgot to mention in my post for Nafplion was about Psorokostena, which is a disparaging noun Greeks use to label Greece’s perceived socio-economic limitations.
During the Ottoman occupancy, the Greeks were very poor but also after the Independence people lived in poverty for many years. One day in 1826 they gathered at the big square of Nafplion, now called Syntagma Square and people were asked to contribute whatever they had to liberate Messolonghi. The poorest woman in Nafplion was called Hadjikostena and she was the first to take off her silver ring and a «grossi» which was a turkish coin of minimal value and offered them for this cause. The people exlaimed «Look, even psorokostena (the word «psoro» has the meaning of poor) is contritubing and from this incident this newly founded poor state of Greece was called «psorokostena».
Fassolada is considered to be the national dish of the Greeks because the Greeks surived those poor years eating dried legumes and vegetables. Meat was eaten rarely and only on special occasions. Even until early sixties, meat was eaten only on Sundays but after a few decades of prosperity we are back to «psorokostena» and trying to live on a budget again.
Before going to the recipe, you may have seen this dish written as fasolada with one «s». I write it with double «s» as according to English grammar rules an «s» between two vowels is pronounced as a «z» so it’s not fazolada but fassolada. You may have also seen it written as «fasoulada» which although not wrong, no one calls it fasoulada because this is the way it was called by the peasants, ages ago.
Instead of making the classic fassolada recipe which is a bean soup this dish is more like a stew as I baked it a casserole dish but you can also cook it in a dutch oven.
Fassolada is a very healthy and nutricious dish and according to the principles of the Mediterranean Diet, we should eat dried legumes at least three times a week in order to benefit from its health effects. Greek food is simple and the only spices used in this dish is salt and pepper. We are lucky because our vegetables still have flavour but most of its flavour comes from the olive oil used in all Greek dishes, so in my opinion there is no need to add sausages in a dish as healthy and flavourful as this one.
This dish is very easy to prepare and you only need ten minutes to prepare it and you only have to mix it once. The past months I’ve been adding tomato paste in my sauces and I have noticed that the dish not only have a better colour but also enhances the flavour of the sauce as well.
Tip: When using tomato paste and have leftover, bring it back to a level surface and add a layer of olive oil on top. It can be preserved in the refrigerator for a very long time. Each time you use some, try getting it from below and then levelling it again. The oil will come back on the surface and if needed add some more.
Fassolada sti gastra
250 grams white beans, such as navy beans (medium size)
3 carrots, sliced is small cubes
1 big potato, cut into small cubes
3 – 4 celery stalks, finely chopped
½ cup of olive oil
1 big onion, finely chopped
1clove garlic, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
5 fresh tomatoes or 1 can of whole tomatoes with sauce, blended
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Freshly grated black pepper
1 tbsp honey
1 cup water
Soak the beans in water from the previous night.
Drain the water and place the beans in a pot with fresh water. Boil for a while and remove any froth which arises. Drain once again. Add fresh water and cook until slightly soft, about half an hour. Drain and set aside.
In a skillet heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic until translucent. Add the potatoes, carrots, celery and mix. Add the bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Add the tomato, blended with the tomato paste, the cooked beans and enough water to cover it.
Bring to a boil and remove it into a casserole with a lid.
Bake in a preheated oven at 200oC for about 2 hours. After the first hour, remove the bay leaves and mix the beans. Cover again and cook for another hour or until the beans and vegetables are soft.
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi!