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Local recipes: Asturian Fabada   by Ana Cuesta

Accommodation in Asturias

This traditional one-pot dish from Asturias (North coast of Spain) is dead easy to prepare, the only tricky parts being perhaps getting the right ingredients (if outside Asturias) and the need to plan for it ahead of time. A French friend told me it is similar to their "cassoulet" and Britons get at first surprised that the beans are savory instead of sweet, but mostly everybody seems to like it.

The main ingredients are Fabes (a particular kind of buttery beans with its own protected denomination, "Faba de la Granja Asturiana"; BTW, the singular is "faba", not "fabe") and different bits of meat labeled together as "Compango" (companion). Compango includes Tocino (bacon), Morcilla asturiana (a particular kind of black pudding; there are upteen types of morcilla all over Spain, but they can be quite different), Chorizo (a particular kind of sausage) and often Lacón (pork shoulder). Recipe books generally add onions and garlic for flavor (they are disposed of after the cooking) and saffron or paprika for color, but I personally use neither and have never missed them.

Asturian FabadaNow, while tocino, chorizo and lacón are no problem to find anywhere in Spain, fabes and morcilla (this particular one) can be far more tricky. The good news is that, aware of that, Asturian producers now market special packs with all the ingredients put together and vacuum-packed. These can be found in regional specialty shops, the gourmet area of big supermarket chains or over the Internet. Water is also important: use bottled if local tap water is hard, otherwise the beans will never get cooked!

Once we've got all the ingredients, down to the business:

The night before, leave the beans soaking in plenty of cold water (they about double/triple their volume) so they rehydrate and get tender (no hope of getting them cooked in a reasonable amount of time if this step is skipped). Also leave the lacón soaking in water, separately, to desalt it (always safer to correct the salt latter). Some people like to soak all the compango ingredients, even to do it in hot water, so they lose some greasiness.

Pressure-cooker version: Discard the water from the soaking. Put the beans in the cooker and add just enough clean water to cover them. Put the compango on top of the beans. Close the cooker and bring it to pressure. Once at pressure, let the cooking go on for 20 minutes. Voila, that's it (I said it was easy, didn't I?). After opening the cooker, check that the beans are done and correct the salt. If they are not quite done, cook them a little longer in the open cooker. The amount of liquid should be just fine, but if too watery you can always take some beans out, mash them and add them back. Once in a while, the morcilla blows out under the pressure, so some people prefer to leave it out of the cooking (after all, it is cooked already) and add it at the end, once the cooker is open.

Old-fashioned version: Discard the water from the soaking. Put the beans in the pot, cover them with clean water and start cooking at low heat with the lid on. From time to time, add some more water (cold is fine) so the beans keep always covered and shake the pot gently. Keep doing that regularly (it takes anything between 2 and 3 hours to cook them this way, so patience!). Half way throughout the cooking, add the compango ingredients (they don't need too long to cook) and keep to the adding water/shaking routine. Once the beans are done, check/correct the level of salt and water as above.

To serve the fabada, take the compango out, cut the different ingredients in small pieces (depending on the number of servings) and either serve separately or add the pieces back to the stew. Best served after letting it rest for a while (next day is even better!). Freezes wonderfully.

This is a rich, pretty fulfilling dish that doesn't really need anything else apart from bread (putting your bread on fabada is not only allowed but almost customary) and perhaps a simple, green salad to clean the palate in between mouthfuls. As for drinks to accompany it, Asturian cider is probably the best, pretty obvious option but it also goes well with red wine and perhaps more surprisingly with cava.

Accommodation in Asturias  /  Top

Latest update: April 3, 2019