If you had told my 10 year old self that at the age of 33 I’d be writing a recipe about how tasty Fasolia are, I would have stood there for hours and adamantly told you the hundreds of reasons why that wasn’t possible. That I would never write about, let alone wanna eat Fasolia he he!
If you have no idea what Fasolia is (also known as Fasolada or Fasoulada), it is a traditional Greek and Cypriot dish made by simmering beans with tomatoes and other vegetables such as carrots, onions, celery and bay leaves.
Sounds ok right?
But the sweetness and aroma from the onion, sugar and earthiness from the carrot, and the floating kind of herbal kick from the celery was not for me!
This mirepoix, or the sautéing of the carrots, onion and celery introduced such a depth of flavour, which to me overtook the beans (which are a great carrier of flavour) and the tomato sauce base, for my young pallet was too aromatic. I think if there was a stronger contender in the sauce that didn’t take on all the sautéed veg flavour and added another dimension of flavour to complement the mirepoix, for example some braised beef, pork or lamb it would have tasted so much better.
So when I had kids, don’t ask me why, but Fasolia came to mind and I thought I’d make it for the whole family coz they’re a great meat free alternative,
I didn’t wanna eat it cooked the traditional way, so I started experimenting.
I knew I wanted the tomato base and beans as my foundation so I worked up from there focusing on making this meal satisfy all the taste buds.
We used to eat Fasolia with smoked kippers, crusty bread, cucumber and tomato salad, onions and olives.
I wanted to take the traditional recipe and give it my own ggmix twist respecting the basics and developing upon them to create a new dish altogether, which when tried by traditional Fasolia lovers they’ll say
“This isn’t Fasolia! You don’t add this or that to Fasolia.” and my response would be
“Who said this is Fasolia?”
“This is Posh Beans on Toast”
and that’s when I’d know I had accomplished what I set out to do, keeping the heart of the dish and giving it a new lease on life. So all you Yiayias and Theias out there who are going to say
“this isn’t how you make Fasolia!”
I aint trying to make Fasolia, you all know the recipe and I know the recipe so there is no need for me to show you something you already know. This is my take on it, coz I don’t like it but I love the nutritional aspect of the beans and the sauce and so I’ve added a little bit of this and a little bit of that and come up with a new dish altogether,
Posh Beans on Toast!
Yes, beans on toast, but on another level.
I’ve taken the traditional beans on toast and made them super healthy and delicious. They have sweetness from caramelised onion and garlic, red wine vinegar cuts the rich tomato sauce that coats each silky bean nestled amongst umami rich lentils, served with some salty creamy feta contrasting with some crunchy spring onions and crisp minted cucumbers and tomatoes and bursts of bitter Kalamata olives served upon a bed of toasted bread or soaked in your loaf it’s your choice and the best bit it can all be done in under 30 minutes.
Yes I know this is the intro to my posh beans on toast video but hey it is good and describes the dish perfectly so “what aint broke…” and all that (“,) If you haven’t seen my video and thought my description above was making you salivate wait until you hear me say it with the food in front of you, well on the screen in front of you hehe…. You are gonna wanna make it straight away, so go and watch the video after you finish reading my ramblings, it’s at the end of this page.
Anyway, let’s get back on track. When I start balancing a dish I like to break the dish down into different components. First, the 5 tastes; sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. Then into textures; crunchy and smooth. Finally temperature, heat and coolness. I always use this as my template coz I know if I’ve got a little bit from each component in my dish my food will taste fantastic coz each part of my mouth will be getting satisfied.
Here’s a breakdown off each component and a little explanation why I’m using each ingredient
I want to keep the tomato sauce as the base of my dish and what better than some caramelised onions to give it some sweetness. But…. just caramelised onions for sweetness is not enough I want more depth of flavour, I want the flavour to come from different directions with each bite, I wana get excited and to do that I need another layer of sweetness to make it more interesting, so I’m also going to also caramelise some garlic which will add a heated sweetness that will contrast with the onions so when your tongue tastes it, it’ll get hit with a double whammy of sweetness coz now it’s no longer 1 dimensional were working in 3d baby!
Don’t worry the onions give only a hint of sweetness, you won’t taste it being sweet like you do if you were to add spoonful’s of sugar coz we’re working on a savoury dish and we don’t wanna taste sweet, we want the sweetness to balance all the other flavours so it’s not obvious that it’s there but if it wasn’t you’d know it was coz it would taste too bitter.
The sauce is a little rich and overpowering so to cut its richness I add a splash of red wine vinegar to make the sauce less heavy and leave a little twang behind after each mouthful. It’s more exciting that way (“,)
As I said earlier the Fasolia may have tasted better if there was some kind of meat to soak up all the veggie flavour and impart a little meatiness. I wanted this dish to be meat free so any kinda meat was a no no, (well this time anyway maybe next time who knows). I wanted a meat substitute to give the sauce a layer of savouriness so I started playing with legumes and decided on red lentils coz they not only add some umami/savoury taste but also an earthy undertone just like the carrots did in the traditional Fasolia recipe.
We used to eat our Fasolia with smoked kippers which were really salty and a texture that was velvety smooth and I loved it for those two reasons. But because I wanted this dish to be meat free the kippers were left in the shop and my favourite cheese took it’s place, Feta. It’s salty but not too much, it’s velvety and crumbly giving chunks of smoothness and I also want another element of salt to balance the dish other than the salt I season with. So now I have two elements of salt in my dish but I don’t want it too salty so I add a little sprinkling of dried oregano for a hint of bitterness to balance the saltiness and it’s warmth also equalises the feta’s coolness.
What goes perfectly with cheese?
Yeah you know,
You can’t get a better pairing than cheese and onion
It’s up there with strawberries and cream and tomato and basil and that’s why I always serve my Fasola with onions. I chose spring onion coz they don’t burn as much as your standard onion but they still give the meal that much needed umphy crunch.
Olives, olives yes I love oliveesss….
I serve up a small bowl of Kalamata olives on the side for some random bursts of bitterness to round everything out. My olives always have the stone in them, none of this pitted olive rubbish. Pitted olives are rubbery and lack flavour. Trust me on this one, olives with their stone in the heart are the best, hands down every time.
There’s so much going on with all the flavours and textures bouncing around that everything needed to be calmed down a bit, but in a subtle way. So I chose a simple cucumber and tomato salad dressed with nothing fancy other than some dried mint and salt to give another element of crunch but this time the crisp kinda crunch and also some much needed coolness and freshness to balance out the heavy sauce and beans.
Watch the video here