As promised here is a typical Serbian dish from the kitchen of Marco’s family. Although I have enjoying this bean dish for many years, since Marco and I have been together, this is the first time I have learned to make it. Marco never wanted me to make it at home. Partly because he’s been eating it his whole life and perhaps partly because he didn’t think I could make it like his mum. However, since we went to Serbia last year he love of his home food has been reignited.
Prebranac (пребранац/pre-BRAH-nats) is a Serbian baked bean dish, which is prepared with white or brown beans, such as lima beans and great northern beans; onions and sweet Hungarian paprika. It is also known as Pasulj (Пасуљ) and is a typical dish in Bosnia, Albania and other Balkan nations. Many recipes include bay leaves, carrots, leeks and other vegetables. It is often prepared with smoked meats, such as smoked bacon, smoked sausage and smoked joints. However, the meat can be omitted. It doesn’t have milk, butter or eggs, so it ideal during fasting time. This dish was originally eaten by farmers during the winter months, due to its high fat content. It can be cooked dry or in a thick sauce depending how much water you add. It can be served hot or room temperature, with crusty bread.
Before I made this dish I consulted both Marco’s mother and his sister. They both have different ways of making this dish and so do their other family members. You can use lima beans or greater northern beans. The beans can be soaked or un-soaked. You can use four onions or one kilo of onions. Some people use 1/2 teaspoon of paprika and others use lots of more colour. You cook the onions with leeks, carrot and/or capsicum or without. You can add the onion and vegetables with cooked beans or you can layer. You can finish off this dish in the oven to brown or on the stove with a bit of flour. You can have this dish dry or you can have it very moist. So many possibilities!
I ended up going with most of Marco’s mothers suggestions as she enthusiastically started the dish for me. The only thing I added, which perhaps isn’t tradition, is a teaspoon of liquid smoke for the smoky flavour. This is because usually Sally adds smoked ribs to the dish before she puts it in the oven. So I still wanted the same flavour, but made vegan. You can omit this though. Other the that this is a really easy dish to prepare, which doesn’t take much work, but it does take time.
So the verdict? It turned out quite well. The beans were nice and soft and the top browned very nicely. I didn’t put enough salt, so we had to add a lot more when it was ready. It wasn’t the same as Sally’s, but it was my first attempt, so I was happy. Mine was a bit dry as well. I thought that I had put enough water, but next time I will add a little more.
Prebranac (Serbian Baked Beans) (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)
500 lima beans (pre- soaked for 8 hours)
1/2 cup olive oil
4 onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 tablespoons Sweet Hungarian Paprika
1 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional, for smoking taste)
1. Place lima beans in a large pot and fill with water. Bring to the boil, then strain beans and remove water.
2. Place lima beans in the same pot and fill with water. Bring to the again boil, then strain beans and remove again water.
3. This time place beans back in pot with water to cover (about 1-2 finger tips). Slightly cover the pot and bring to the boil, then place on a simmer. Cook for 45 mins to 1 hour, or until beans are quite soft.
4. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
5. In a pan heat olive oil and add the onion, garlic, paprika, sea salt, black pepper and liquid smoke. Cook for 5 mins or until onions are translucent, but not browned.
6. Take a baking tray or casserole dish and first layer half the lima beans on the bottom with a little bit of the cooking water. (The more water you add the more moist it will be).
7. Next add half the onion mixture on top of the beans.
8. Then another layer of beans with cooking water and lastly with the onion mixture.
9. Bake for 30 mins or until browned on top.
Baked Beans Recipe – Serbian Prebranac <http://easteuropeanfood.about.com/od/serbianvegetables/r/prebanac.htm>
Prebranac (Serbian Baked Beans) <http://food52.com/recipes/19697-prebranac-serbian-baked-beans>