Spicy Catalan Stew of Haricot Beans

The role of dried common beans in the cuisine of Catalonia is unique in the Mediterranean. They play a role in the staple diet more akin to the role of beans in Mexico than with any other region of the Mediterranean. Although it’s true that beans are a staple or near-staple everywhere in the Mediterranean, the Catalonian love of beans is reflected in the role of the olla from the time of Don Quixote. The bean in those early bean stews must have been the fava bean or hyacinth bean, because Phaseolus vulgaris–the common bean so closely associated today with the cooking of Catalonia did not appear in Europe until after Columbus’s second voyage in 1493. One of the first references to this bean is in Clermont-sur-Lauquet in France from 1565 where it is called monges. It seems that this word might have come from the Catalan, which would make sense since the common bean had to move north from Seville where it first appeared in the Mediterranean. This very flavorful Catalonian stew using mongetes, common beans, is called salpiquet de mongetes, a dish that will remind you of a poor man’s or quick-style cassoulet in taste. The caul fat required in the recipe can usually be found in supermarkets that also make their own sausages and which serve ethnic populations. The Spanish-style semi-dry sausage can be ordered from La Española, by visiting www.donajuana.com.

Salpiquet de Mongetes
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Stew
Cuisine: Catalan
Serves: 4 servings
  • 1⅓ cups dried white haricot beans (about 9 ounces), soaked in water to cover overnight and drained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 head of garlic, first layer of peel rubbed off
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Water to cover
  • 1 tablespoon pork lard
  • 1 slice lean salt pork (about 1½ ounces), diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 ounces bacon, chopped
  • One walnut-sized chunk caul fat or mesentary or pork fat, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 thin slices Spanish-style semi-dry sausage, salami, or peperoni, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  1. Place the haricot beans in an earthenware casserole with the bay leaf, head of garlic, and salt. Cover with cold water. Turn the heat to high and once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat low and simmer, covered, until the outer cloves of garlic are very soft, about 30 minutes. Drain and return the beans to the casserole and cover again, just to the top of the beans, with fresh cold water. Save the head of garlic and extract the garlic from the cloves and chop. Discard the bay leaf.
  2. In a small skillet, melt the lard over medium-high heat, then brown the salt pork until a little crispy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onion and cook until it is soft, about 6 minutes, stirring.
  3. Chop the garlic cloves with the parsley and bacon and add to the skillet with the onions, then cook until the bacon is a bit crispy, about 4 minutes, stirring. Add the caul fat and cook 1 minute. Add this mixture to the beans and stir. Add the tomato paste, reserved garlic, olive oil, sausage, and pepper and then the salt. Simmer until the beans are very tender and the broth is in between a stew and a soup, about, 2 ½ to 3 hours. If necessary, moisten with water from time to time so the beans are always covered. Stir in the garlic from the garlic head.


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