Almost Turkish Recipes: Fresh Borlotti Beans (Cranberry) Turkish Style (Barbunya Pilaki)
Fresh Borlotti Beans (Cranberry) Turkish Style (Barbunya Pilaki)
It’s barbunya season again! These delicious nutty beans with red or dark purple flecks, packed with a long list of health benefits (google it!), Are also called Borlotti, Cranberry, Roman (not the Italian greens), or October beans. In Turkey, these reddish, delicious beans are named after another red delicacy: the Mediterranean red mullet, also known as barbunya, from the Greek barbounia.
Barbunya beans hit farmers’ markets in Turkey in pods in midsummer, and when they arrive they instantly become the most expensive item on the cart. With people waiting so long for their arrival, by the time they arrive they are ready to pay for anything – it’s definitely a seller’s market. However, towards the end of summer and the end of the Barbunya season, Barbunya stocks begin to decline and Barbunya aficionados invest in pounds and pounds of Barbunyas. You peel them and keep them in the freezer for the long winter without barbunya. Although you can find dry barbunyas year round, and I cannot stress this enough, fresh barbunyas are always preferred to dried ones.
Barbunyas are always cooked the same in Turkish cuisine, i.e. vegetarian, in plenty of olive oil with tomatoes. Cooked differently, it is considered a shame, a total waste. “The” Istanbul-style Barbunya dish is called Barbunya Pilaki. The word pilaki also comes from the Greek (remember “gigantes plaki”?) And in its Turkish form the word a is Generic name for a vegetable or seafood dish that is slowly braised in olive oil with onions, garlic and tomatoes and served cold or at room temperature. However, while there are delicious seafood pilakis, the name has only been associated with bean pilakis, cannellini, and barbunya over time, to be precise. This is my recipe for barbunya pilaki.
Barbunya pilaki is traditionally made from potatoes and carrots; However, I don’t like potatoes in this dish; I firmly believe that potatoes tarnish the taste of barbunyas. I replace potatoes with green peppers or, in their absence, with Italian peppers.
I usually cook barbunyas in a pressure cooker as it goes faster. You can also use this recipe with regular or instant pots.
2 pounds of fresh barbunyas in pod, pod them. Sometimes, when very fresh, the pods are firm and difficult to peel. If so, leave them in a cloth bag for a day or two to breathe and loosen up.
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or thinly sliced
1 potato, peeled and diced
OR, if you want to try my version 3-4 sweet green peppers, chopped into small pieces
1 carrot, cut into half or quarter moons
2 large tomatoes, grated or chopped in a food processor
1/3 cup olive oil, as a starter and when ready, add a heaping tablespoon more (we believe in olive oil)
1 tbsp tomato paste (optional)
-Pod all the beans. Your 2 pounds of fresh barbunya beans will decrease to ~ 1 pound after skinning. They can come in different sizes and colors, all right. Do not be alarmed; they lose their bright colors and turn brownish after cooking. Still everything is fine.
-Add olive oil to your saucepan and after heating, add onions. Cook on medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes until tender.
-Add sugar, garlic, paprika or potatoes and carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes.
-If you think your tomatoes are not making a bright red color, which is a common occurrence, you can use tomato paste. If so, add it now and cook for a minute.
-Add barbunyas and tomatoes and stir for a minute or two.
-If you are using a pressure cooker, cover and cook on low after the steam has been released for 16-18 minutes. (I have a young clientele who like soft foods so I leave for 18 minutes). If you’re using a regular saucepan, cover and simmer on low heat for 30-35 minutes until the beans are cooked through. Check every now and then that the water is not running out. If it does, boil some water before adding more.
-After cooking in the pot with the lid, let it cool to room temperature.
Barbunya pilaki is a traditional olive oil dish and, like all olive oil dishes, is served at room temperature or cold with lemon wedges. A squirt of lemon juice lights up Barbunyas in an unimaginable way. Serve with grilled meat, with rice as a side dish or with crusty bread. It can be kept in the refrigerator for a week.