I’m so excited to share this recipe!
So as you may know, I spent three weeks this summer gallivanting around the Balkans. And while it was an absolute blast (read here about why you need to add this region to your bucket list!), it’s not exactly the best place to eat when you’re a vegetarian.
Balkan food is all about MEAT. Meat meat meat, and pitas. So in most countries, I was eating salads for a lot of my dinners. Now they were gorgeous salads, full of veggies that were so fresh and full of flavour, but I always wanted something with a little more substance.
The exception to this was Macedonia. Macedonia made my heart so HAPPY. It’s a beautiful country with wonderful warm people, delicious salads, good wine, and BEANS!
Yes, Macedonia’s signature dish is tavce gravce, which literally means beans cooked in a clay pot.
It’s a very simple, cozy meal. White beans, cooked on the stove with onions and chilis, and then baked in a clay pot (or whatever oven-safe dish you want) with paprika sauce.
I ate it a bunch of times while in Macedonia, but the most delicious was made by an old Macedonian lady, eaten with wine, fresh bread, and salad as we looked over beautiful Lake Ohrid. Macedonia really stole my heart.
I bought a cookbook in Macedonia so I could make this tasty dish (and a few other things too), but the translated recipe for tavce gravce left out a few key steps (like how long and hot to bake the beans) so this is my improvised version. I know it may seem annoying to cook the beans rather than using canned, but trust me, the flavour you add when cooking the beans is key.
I cooked my beans in traditional clay pots that I bought while in Macedonia, but any oven-safe dish will do. You can make the whole batch in a dutch oven.
It’s healthy, hearty, perfect for winter dinner.
2 cups dried white beans (I used great northern beans), rinsed
6 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, 1 quartered and 1 diced
2 cloves garlic, 1 whole and 1 minced
2 dried whole chilis
1 tbsp paprika
salt and pepper
chopped fresh parsley
First, soak your beans overnight. This will make the cooking process MUCH shorter.
In a medium sauce pan, combine beans, 2 tbsp of the olive oil, 1 onion, peeled and quartered, 1 peeled whole clove of garlic, and the dried chilis. Cover with enough water to cover the beans by two inches. Cook on medium heat until beans are soft, adding water as necessary (you want it the consistency of stew).
If you forgot (like me) to soak the beans overnight, increase cooking time to 2-2 1/2 hours.
Meanwhile, in a small pan, heat remaining 4 tbsp of olive oil. Add remaining minced clove of garlic, diced onion, and paprika. Heat, stirring, until it becomes a sauce.
Preheat oven to 400.
When the beans are soft, carefully pour into an oven-safe dish (like a dutch oven). Add enough of the cooking liquid to just cover the beans. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the paprika sauce, and garnish top with the whole chili peppers.
Bake until beans are crusty and golden on top, about 20 minutes. Top with parsley and serve with fresh bread.
A little taste of Macedonia to warm your winter!