Friday, 28 March 2008

FULL OF BEANS


“Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you, and be silent.” – Epictetus

I have had a rather busy week, more so than usual, and at the weekend I have to go to Sydney for work, staying there till Monday. Sydney is always nice to visit, but whenever I go there I always conclude that I wouldn’t like to live there. In any case, it does not look as though I’ll be seeing lots of the city as a very busy schedule awaits me.

Today we had Greek bean soup (Φασολάδα = fasoládha), a typical vegetarian dish that characterises much of the “ordinary” Greek cuisine. Beans are one of the staples that a Greek pantry is never without. This bean soup is so typically Greek that (in Greece) it is often called the “Greek national dish”! To the Greeks beans are an inexpensive, nourishing meal that is most usually served on its own with a little bread, some tomatoes and cheese. It is considered “peasant food” and replaces the more expensive meat dishes.

HEARTY GREEK BEAN SOUP - FASOLADHA
Ingredients
1 cup dried haricot beans
2 cups vegetable stock (you can use V8 juice and omit the tomato paste)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, cut in slices
4 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 can of Roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp. tomato paste
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tbsp. freshly chopped parsley for garnish
1 bay leaf

Method
1) Place beans in a bowl, cover with water and let them soak overnight. Drain and rinse beans.
2) Meanwhile in a medium pot, heat olive oil over medium setting.
3) Add the onion, celery and carrots and salt for about 5 minutes or until soft.
4) Add the tomatoes, stock, tomato paste and beans.
5) Simmer uncovered for about 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender. You may add more or less stock, depending on how watery/thick you want the soup to be.
6) Season with salt and pepper and add chopped parsley before serving.
7) Serve with crusty bread, a simple salad, some anchovy fillets and cheese.

Beans are an excellent source of many essential nutrients and have been show to contain components that protect against many diseases. High in protein, low in fat, with no cholesterol, high in fibre and rich in many vitamins and minerals, beans are indeed a “poor man’s meat”. A diet rich in beans and other legumes protects against many gastrointestinal diseases (including cancer of the large bowel), but also against prostate and breast cancer, through the high content of phyto-oestrogens in legumes. The added goodness of vegetables in this dish makes it highly nutritious and healthful, as well as tasting delicious!

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