When we talked about Shopska Salata, we talked about how Macedonia just barely misses the cut for most people’s bucket lists. I’m sure you are not one of those people. I’m sure you are well versed in geography and world history, and the finer points of Macedonian cuisine. When you read tavche gravche, I’m sure you nodded your head knowingly, and smirked slightly to yourself thinking, “could there be a more quintessentially Macedonian dish?” (Just in case you “misplaced” your knowledge of Macedonia, I’ve included a few photos below.)
Tavche Gravche truly is the quintessential Macedonian food. Even in 2014, you hardly pass a house with out peppers drying in the window, just waiting to be tossed into this Friday’s pot of beans. Macedonia is a traditionally Orthodox Christian country, and beans were served on Fridays, when the people fasted from meat. Now days, these beans are the grilled cheese and tomato soup of Macedonia, and every family has their own way of preparing this pillar of the Macedonian diet. In our family we like our beans spicy and full of flavor!
Macedonian cuisine is slow food, in the literal rather than culinary sense of the word. Even the quickest dishes seem to bake for hours, and tavche gravche is no exception. But, these creamy beans are well worth the wait. Serve them plain along side a loaf of fresh bread, or with slices of perfectly browned kielbasa, these beans are the perfect comfort food for a fall weekend.
Tavche Gravche literally means “pot beans” and is almost always cooked in a traditional earthenware pot. (Our Macedonian cookery is currently in storage, so please excuse the French impostor.) This Tavche Gravche recipe is hearty, filling and delicious, and they are just as good the next day!
- 2 cups white beans
- 2 medium onions (chopped)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 dried red pepper
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons high temperature oil (sunflower, peanut, canola)
- 1 sprig fresh mint or 1 teaspoon dried mint
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon dried coriander seed
- salt and pepper to taste
- Rinse beans and place in a medium pot and cover with about six cups water. Water should twice the height of the beans.
- Add chopped onion, dried pepper, bay leaf and garlic.
- Bring to a boil, and then reduce to simmer until soft. The required time will depend on the freshness of beans used, usually no more than three hours. (If you want to speed them along, soak the beans in water the night before.)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
- Once the beans are soft, heat oil in a small frying pan. Quickly stir in paprika and allow to sizzle for about 10 seconds (or less) until the paprika just begins to change color. (Do not let the paprika get too dark. If it looks dark brown or black it is best to start over with fresh paprika.)
- Add oil and paprika to the beans, then stir in coriander, mint, salt, and pepper.
- Pour the bean mixture into an oven safe pan. In Macedonia, an earthen pot would be used, but a cast-iron braising pan works just as well.
- Bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a dark brown/black crust forms on top of the beans.