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Beans With Ham (Fabada Asturiana)

A robust country dish from Asturias in the cooler north of Spain, fabada consists of typical local ingredients; fabes (fat white beans), laeon (cured pork), panceta (cured streaky bacon), morcilla (black pudding) and chorizo, all cooked in the same pot. It was typical winter peasant fare and has become a classic dish, appreciated all over the country. Serve it with cornbread and cider, specialities of Asturias, or with a classic Rioja.

ingredients

serves 4 - 6
350 g fabes (large dried white beans),
cannellini or white haricot beans, covered with cold water and soaked overnight
2 bay leaves
a large pinch of saffron threads, toasted in a dry frying pan and ground to a powder
1 onion, cut into quarters through the root
350 g piece of cured pork shoulder or lacon (Spanish cured pork), soaked overnight if salty
150 g morcilla or other black pudding (optional)
150 g sweet chorizo, or other chorizo suitable for cooking
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon sweet paprika (pirnenton dulce)
a heat-diffusing mat

method

1. Drain the beans and put in a saucepan with 1.5 litres cold water and the bay leaves. Bring to the boil for 5 minutes, then throw in 250 ml cold water to asustar or 'scare' the beans. Immediately skim any froth off the surface and boil again for 5 minutes.
Repeat the scare treatment and skim again.

2. Return to the boil for 5 minutes, add the saffron and onion, lower the heat to a simmer and add the pork, morcilla, if using, and chorizo. Simmer very gently using a heat-diffusing mat for about 2 hours until everything has cooked. Alternatively, bring to the boil on top of the stove, then cook in a preheated oven at 180°C (350°F) Gas 4 for the same time.

3. During this time, keep the water level topped up to cover everything and occasionally skim and discard the red oil that rises to the surface.

4. When everything is soft, remove the meats, put in a deep serving dish and keep them warm. Put the beans in a bowl and keep them warm too.

5. Using a baster, remove 250 ml liquid from the pot, leaving any red oil behind. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the garlic and paprika and fry until crisp. Add the 250 ml liquid to deglaze the pan and pour into a blender with 3 tablespoons of cooked beans and the onion. Pulse to form a coarse puree, then stir into the bowl of beans.

6. Cut the meat into thick slices and return to the serving dish. Add the bean mixture and serve.

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