Fasole Bătută: Transylvanian White Bean Purée & Fried Onions

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Fasole bătută is a creamy Transylvanian vegan white bean purée, topped with a pile of sticky, gooey, sweet caramelised onions. It’s traditionally served with sausages and pickles, plus home-made bread (pâine de casă), of course. It makes for a fantastically filling and simple frugal meal, especially when there’s not much in the way of fresh produce around.

When we lived in Băiţa, once autumn had set in, our garden was no longer producing enough vegetables, fruit, and herbs to sustain us, so we had to supplement our diet by using the local growers’ market in Reghin, about 15 mins’ drive away. Most of the village is made up of subsistence farmers but the difference between us and our neighbours is that we didn’t have animals to rely on to keep us fed throughout the autumn and winter! Still, until about the end of October, we feasted every day on the bounty from our garden, and for that I was very grateful.

Because most of Romania is still incredibly, breathtakingly, beautifully rural, and people largely live off the land, food follows the seasons. In the summer and early autumn, salads abound, and there’s a wealth of fresh fruit and vegetables, while in the winter and early spring, preserved foods make their presence felt. I bet there’s not a rural family who doesn’t make their own zacuscă, mixed pickles, jams, cheese, and cured meats.

Plus wine. liqueurs, and țuică, of course!

Transylvanian traditions

As a lifelong fan of hummus, when I first came across fasole bătută, it was love at first sight! This meal of white bean purée with fried onions, sausages, and pickles (fasole bătută cu ceapa prăjită, cârnați și muraturi) seems to me, the epitome of Transylvanian families making sure they have enough to eat during the lean months, with the recipe passed down from mother to daughter for generations.

As someone who spent several decades doing experimental history, giving public demonstrations and classes for historical food and home crafts ranging from early medieval (i.e. Viking/Saxon) to the early modern period (eve of the last English civil war), I am truly fascinated, and eager to learn more about local culinary traditions in the places I live.

In Băiţa, we were surrounded by people who are keeping these traditional practices alive, not because it’s fashionable to do so but because if they didn’t, they’d quite possibly starve. It’s a sobering thought, and it reminds me of when my children were small, and we lived in a similar way. I was a single parent, and always strapped for cash. I worked three jobs (teaching assistant, cycling instructor, and freelance journalist), grew most of our own food, baked bread every day, plus cooked and preserved absolutely everything from scratch. It was hard work but I did have the huge advantage of having modern Western conveniences. And an oven with a timer.

(I suspect that most of my Transylvanian neighbours have modern cookers too, in addition to their traditional stoves and wood-fired bread ovens!)

This is a traditional Transylvanian Romanian kitchen. More modern cookers are covered with ceramic tiles instead of lime wash. Our neighbours still have cookers like this one, which serves as heating, as well as a place to cook. The one that was in our house is now in pieces in the pig shed! 

How to make fasole bătută

Traditionally, this fasole bătută is made with dried beans, soaked overnight, and by all means, you can make it like this if you wish – I have done – but it does require a bit of forethought (and a couple of hours’ cooking time), which is why I tend to go for tinned beans. I’m not always that good at planning ahead. >ahem<

Once cooked, the beans are puréed with a little of the cooking stock, plus onion and garlic, and then topped with caramelised onions.

I’ve been told that some people add butter and/or cream to their fasole but to be honest, taste-wise, I don’t believe it needs it. Also, when fasole is eaten during the four fasting periods of Lent, Apostles, Repose of the Virgin Mary, and Christmas (Nov 15-Dec 24) – dairy isn’t used.

That said, I can see why, if you need to have calorie and fat-laden foods to help replenish you after a day of hard manual labour, and to help keep you warm in the winter, making this dairy-rich would do the job nicely.

However, sitting on my butt, writing blog posts, no matter how much it seems to the contrary at times, can in no way be called hard labour… which is why my fasole bătută recipe doesn’t contain a whole lot of fat!

You’ll love this fasole bătută

Because it’s…

  • easy to make
  • wholesome and full of Vitamin A
  • packed with protein and fibre
  • gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free
  • comforting and creamy
  • incredibly delicious

Enjoy this fasole bătută recipe with sausages and pickles, with bread, on crackers… or however you like. I’m sure you’ll love it! Poftă bună!

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