Friday, April 4, 2014

Ričet (Slovenian Bean & Barley Stew)

I was inspired to make this when my lovely new friend Tina, who hails from Slovenia, posted about it on Facebook. Since I know little to nothing about Slovenian cuisine and am always excited to try something new, this bean and barley stew seemed like the perfect antidote to a cold, sleety, nasty day. (Also note that this was March 31, fully 11 days after the vernal equinox. Enough, already!) I consulted the prototype my friend had posted, did a bit of Googling to look at various recipes - most of which traditionally contain sausages, pork, and/or (gulp) lard - and came up with the following rendition. Since I've never had The Thing Itself, I can't comment on whether my dish remotely resembles the original, and take full responsibility for any egregious departures I might have made. But  it was certainly a delicious, hearty stew, and everyone in our house hoovered it up with enthusiasm; so thanks, Tina!

~ 1 cup red kidney beans, soaked overnight (or at least 8 hours)
~ 1.5 cup barley, soaked for an hour or two
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 10 cups "no chicken" broth
~ 2 tbsp. oil
~ 1 red onion, chopped
~ 2 large carrots, sliced into half moons
~ 2 large stalks celery, diced
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 3 fist-sized potatoes, diced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, dill, thyme, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, parsley
~ 1/2 tsp. each: cumin, sage
~ A few generous grinds black pepper

~ Drain and rinse the kidney beans and barley, and place them in a large, deep pot. Add the broth and the bay leaves, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer and cook for an hour, stirring occasionally.
~ Place a large, deep skillet over medium heat and add the oil. Add the onions, carrots, and celery, and cook for about 5 minutes.
~ Add the garlic, potatoes, and dry seasonings. Stir to combine, cover, and continue cooking for about 30 minutes, until the vegetables have softened.
~ When the beans and barley have cooked for an hour, add the vegetable mixture to the soup pot, stir, and replace the cover. Continue cooking for another hour or so, until everything has softened and you have a thick stew. (If it seems too thick, you can add a bit of broth or water; if too thin, crack the lid and cook a bit longer, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick.)
~ Remove from heat, fish out the bay leaves, and serve. This stew is so substantial that it's really a meal all by itself, but to carb-loving people like us, a hunk of good crusty bread never comes amiss (we opted for rye).

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