This Croatian bean soup recipe makes such a thick end-product, it's more like stew and that's why it's known as grah i varivah (literally "beans and stews") in Croatian. It can be eaten as a main meal, but many people eat it as a hearty soup and then dive into the main course.
Any type of smoked meat or sausage will do, but smoked rib meat is traditional and yields the best flavor. Also, try using a combination of dried beans, but pinto, cranberry, or kidney beans typically are used.
Serve with hearty bread and you have a filling meal, especially welcome when there's a nip in the air. The beans must be soaked overnight, so plan accordingly.
- 1 pound dried beans rinsed, picked over, and soaked overnight)
- 12 to 15 cups cold water
- 3 cloves garlic (peeled and minced)
- 1 large onion (chopped)
- 1 pound smoked sausage (Croatian like kranjska kobasice or smoked Polish sausage like kiełbasa krajana, cut into 4-inch lengths)
- 1 pound smoked ribs (or meaty smoked ham hocks)
- 1 large bay leaf
- Salt, pepper, and Vegeta to taste
- Rinse the beans and pick them over to remove shriveled beans, bits of rock, and any other matter that doesn't belong there. Place in a large bowl or pot and add cool water to come about 3 inches above the beans. Cover and soak overnight at room temperature. Alternatively, use the quick soak method.
- When you are ready to prepare this recipe, drain the beans, rinse them, and drain again. Place in a large pot and add 12 cups fresh cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and skim off any foam that rises to the surface.
- Add garlic, onion, smoked sausage of choice, smoked ribs or meaty smoked ham hocks, bay leaf, salt, pepper and Vegeta seasoning powder to taste.
- Return to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 2 to 3 hours or until beans and meat are tender. Add water as needed, while cooking, stirring occasionally.
- Remove bay leaf and discard. Remove bones from rib meat or hocks and return meat to the pot. If soup isn't thick enough, continue to simmer until desired consistency is achieved.
- Serve in heated bowls with hearty bread and a glass of beer.
About Vegeta Seasoning
Vegeta is made in Croatia by the Podravka company, which describes it as an "all-purpose seasoning made from a special blend of the finest vegetables, herbs, spices and select natural ingredients."
It is the go-to seasoning in Balkan and Slavic Eastern European countries used to flavor foods from soups to veggies to meats and poultry. For some, the problem lies in one of its ingredients—MSG, which can pose a real problem to people allergic to it. Now the company makes a No-MSG-Added Vegeta but it still contains loads of sodium.
This homemade sodium-free, MSG-free Vegeta recipe is very similar to the one manufactured by Podravka without all the salt. Real veggies are roasted until dehydrated and then whizzed into a powder. The resulting mixture is stored in a screw-top jar in a cool, dry place.