Brittany Bean Stew (Fasolka po bretońsku)


Surprisingly, this stew doesn’t come from Brittany, but from Poland and is actually unheard of in the region its name bears (Cassoulet is the only French bean stew I know but it is quite different and comes from another part of the country). This one-pot simple meal is very far from impressive culinary creations, but the blend of tomato sauce, smoked sausage and marjoram create unique flavours and aroma, making it absolutely irresistible (at least in my case). I have been meaning to write about this comfort dish for quite a long time because I think it would please the palates of most of you. Moreover, I know the ingredients are available in most (at least Western) countries. Luckily I was reminded of it by the famous Greek soup called Fasolada, posted by Katerina (Culinary Flavours), not only because it’s based on beans, but also because “fasola” means “bean” in Polish too. (Talking of beans, MJ (MJ’s Kitchen) has recently posted a typical Southern US Hoppin’ John, which she called Skippin’ Jenny).

Different bean stews exist all around the world, not only in Greece or in the US. At first sight they might be similar – they usually contain beans, meat, onions and often tomato sauce – but what appears as small details is what makes the biggest difference. In case of the Polish stew smoked meat and/or sausages are extremely important, but marjoram is simply compulsory. Marjoram is one of the most ubiquitous herbs in the Polish cuisine and added to smoked meat and such heavy ingredients as beans or cabbage, not only does it improve the digestion but also gives the special Polish “touch”. Without it, this is just a vague, international bean stew.

My – slightly modified – recipe is taken from this Polish website.

TIPS: The use of Maggi (which I had considered for a long time a typically Polish seasoning until I talked to my Asian and Swiss friends who were also convinced their countries/regions had invented it) is not necessary, but to me it brings back childhood memories. Actually the bottle of Maggi I keep is used only in 2-3 Polish dishes.

I don’t think any of you would be tempted to skip tomato juice/concentrate or onions or beans, but I insist once more on the absolute necessity to include smoked meat (sausage is the best here) and marjoram. It cannot be substituted with thyme or origan or any other herb. If you cannot get marjoram in your country, please contact me and I will happily send you some.

Like most one-pot, home dishes, this one tastes better reheated the following day, and even better two days after. It freezes very well too.

This is one of these dishes where using dried, time-consuming beans is really worth the effort and time. Canned beans can be used too, but the taste is not as good.

Preparation: 2 hours (+ one night for soaking beans, if you use dried beans)

Ingredients (serves 3):

400 g (about 14 oz) white dried beans (I prefer the biggest I can find, but any variety will do) or 800 – 900 g drained canned beans (I do not mean the cans’ weight but the drained beans’ weight)

300 g (about 10 oz) smoked meat or sausage (bacon, sausage etc., I usually prefer half sausage half smoked lean pork, but sausage alone is great too)

1 big onion

3 big garlic cloves

3 tablespoons dried marjoram

1 tablespoon dried savory (not obligatory)

2 litres (about 8 cups) chicken or vegetable stock

5-6 tablespoons tomato purée

3 tablespoons Maggi (not obligatory)

salt, pepper, sweet paprika, hot paprika

If using dried beans soak them in water overnight.

Rinse them and cook in the chicken stock for one hour or until they become slightly tender.

If you use canned beans, drain them and wash off the canning liquid.

In the meantime chop the onion and fry it in 1 tablespoon oil until it becomes transparent.

Cut up the smoked meat into bite-sized pieces. Slice the sausage.

Fry them with the onion for a couple of minutes, constantly stirring.

Put aside.

Add the fried meat and onion to the cooked beans (if you use canned beans, add 1 litre vegetable or chicken stock or water with instant stock).

Chop the garlic and add to the pot together with the tomato purée and the remaining spices and herbs.

Simmer for one hour at very low heat, adding water if necessary.

The final consistency should be very thick, not soupy.

Serve with bread.

45 Replies to “Brittany Bean Stew (Fasolka po bretońsku)”

  1. Oh Yum, Sissi. I’m trying to remember the last time I had marjoram and am very pleasantly curious about it in this dish… I will have to dig through my bag of herbs later to see if I have some on hand and remind myself of the smell (I have a wheel of herbs out on my counter that I use daily and then a precious stash in the pantry). I agree that for a dish like this, it is well worth the extra bit of time to boil dry beans. Plus, you can double or triple the batch and freeze as you suggest which makes it even better. The sausage must make for a perfect addition here. Warming, flavourful, comforting…This is definitely a stew I would enjoy. (Very pretty bowl Sissi! :)).

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. Marjoram transforms dishes in a unique way and I appreciate it especially with smoked meats (soups, stews etc.). My mum used to prepare this dish only with dried beans and the only time I tried it with canned ones, I understood why she took the time to soak beans and boil… I know however that some of us are too busy or not organised well enough to plan everything day ahead. Thank you for the compliment about the bowl. I have bought it recently and found it quite original among my other bowls and plates.

  2. This no doubt sounds really delicious. I wonder why they called it Brittany – maybe to make the dish sound better? Reminds me of dishes like Mongolian BBQ which is not common in Mongolia, and French chicken available in CIS countries but not in France.

    1. Thank you, Mr. Three-Cookies. Maybe someone tasted the French cassoulet (baked beans with sausages and duck/goose confit) in a French house in Brittany, forgot the name and assumed it was a regional dish? And then transformed it adapting to the Polish taste? I have never found the origins of this dish’s name. I have never heard of French chicken either. In France there is a dish called “Greek mushrooms” and I think it has nothing to do with Greece either…

  3. Now that’s my kind of beans!!! Of course smoked sausage is required! Who would ever think of substituting smoked sausage with regular – shame on them it they do. 🙂 3 Tbsp. of marjoram!!! Now that’s A LOT of marjoram! I grow it, so I have plenty, but I’ve always used it sparingly because it has such a dominate flavor. Now I’m really curious about the taste of these beans because I’ve never made anything with so much marjoram. I’m not familiar with Maggi seasoning but I think I know where I can find it here. What a great pot of beans Sissi!!! BTW – thanks so much for the shout out!

    1. Thank you very much, MJ. I’m glad you like it. I would love to make a dish exchange and taste your Southern specialty. Marjoram is a big star here, hence the amount… or maybe I’m a big fan of marjoram?

  4. I love this homey dish of beans and sausage. And, I think the lovely bowl it’s presented in would make it suitable for the snootiest of french bistros. 🙂

    I’m not really familiar with marjoram … I think the dusty bottle of dried marjoram I used to have in my spice cabinet was tossed long ago, but it’s something to consider replacing and using.

    I’m curious what you mean by broad bean.

    1. Thank you so much for the compliments, A_Boleyn. I thought my presentation was very humble, as much as the dish is humble… I hardly ever use marjoram apart from Polish dishes, but when it’s required it gives a fantastic taste.
      I have just corrected putting “biggest beans” instead (I have just read that “broad bean” means “fava bean” and this is not what I wanted to say; this dish can be made with any dried white beans).

      1. I still think the bowl you put the food in is quite elegant. 🙂

        I’m glad you clarified the ‘broad bean’ reference for just that reason.

  5. Reminds me on a saturday stew my dad always cooked after visiting the market halls on saturday: white beans (but smaller) with garlic, lots of smoked chillipepper, sliced lamb sausage (from the market) and tomatoes. I don’t know where his recipe was from, could be nearly the same. Very filling and delicious (childhood memories…).

    1. Hi, Kiki. It sounds similar indeed. Now that I think, I have never had lamb sausage. It sounds fantastic. I have never even seen it.

  6. I love marjoram…and this bean stew looks very inviting…blasting in flavors. It sure makes a great meal…and a very complete one.
    Happy 2013 and a great week ahead Sissi!

  7. Sissi, I think marjoram is often used in all of Eastern Europe: I certainly remember it in its dried form from my childhood. I have to agree with mjskit tho’: 3 Tb of any dried herb does seem an awful lot? In addition to dry I always have it growing in the garden and use it in a lot of salads, stews etc. It does overwinter where I live. Smoked sausages, of course 🙂 !

    1. Very interesting. I only know it from Polish cuisine (but fresh one is used in Italian dishes sometimes too). I do put 3 tablespoons marjoram. It’s not a mistake. I like to have lots of marjoram here. It doesn’t cover any other flavours because they are strong.
      I must start growing marjoram on my balcony too. Chives and parsley survive the winter without problems, so maybe marjoram too?

  8. I have a pork loin recipe that combines marjoram and garlic and the combination is outstanding, so I am sure your stew is wonderful too. And the white bean would add an amazing creaminess to the entire dish. An absolutely perfect dish for these cooler winter days. And needless to say, anything with sausage caramelized the way that you did them would be unbelievable. A fantastic winter dish.

    1. Thank you so much, Eva, for so many compliments. I always make a pork roast with marjoram and garlic (lots of marjoram!), just like my mum does. I must post it one day.

  9. Sissi! This looks incredible! Perfect for the cold winter nights currently gracing New York.

  10. it’s amusing that a brittany bean stew is unheard of in brittany. haha similarly, ‘singaporean noodles’ are unheard of in singapore. and though I hate to admit it, I do find sg noodles delicious, however unauthentic and bastardised it is. this stew is just like that, looks absolutely delicious sissi! and yes maggi sauce is very asian I’m so surprised to hear it being polish o.0

    1. Thank you so much, Shuhan. I’m sure if you went to a Polish grocery they would sell Maggi bottles 😉 A Swiss friend said it was a Swiss invention and was surprised I knew what it was. Actually she was right (i have just checked): Maggi was invented in 1887 by a Swiss whose name was… Maggi (his father was Italian and mother Swiss). It is produced by the Swiss Nestlé group.
      There is a self-service restaurant here which sells something called “chicken Singapore”: lots of thickened dark soy sauce, cashew nuts, bell peppers and of course chicken. It’s very good, but I doubt if it comes from Singapore…

  11. Love the vibrant color of the dish. It is very inviting and appetizing. I am just curious about Maggi seasoning sauce. Is this the sauce that is in a little bottle that has yellow and green label? I know we are using a seasoning sauce back home with the same or similar name. Thank you and have a great middle of the week, Sissi! 🙂

    1. Thank you very much, Ray. I thought it looked humble and simple, just the way it is. Yes! This is the same sauce! As I have told Shu Han (I have checked in the meantime) it’s been invented by a Swiss and is owned by Nestlé (Swiss company). It is famous worldwide, in Africa, Asia… everywhere I suppose.

  12. Thanks for the shout out Sissi! I love beans and this is yet another great way of making them. I added the recipe to my recipe list! If I can find a good quality not very spicy sausage, I will try it! Have a great one!

  13. Sissi I have to thank you for introducing me to marjoram. Yes, I have seen it in my Hungarian cookbooks, but since all my family ever used was paprika, salt, caraway seeds and black pepper [and in that order] I didn’t even know what marjoram tasted like. Now I use it all the time, I think it is the most marvellous flavouring along with paprika.

    1. Zsuzsa, I am proud to introduce you to any ingredient or recipe! It’s an honour. I’m glad that you like marjoram. (Have I told you I always massage it into pork roast?). I have noticed that there are many common points between Hungarian and Polish cuisine (and Poles go crazy for Hungarian cuisine! My cousin recently made the Paprikàs Csirke I posted, taken from your recipe, and every guest loved it!), but Poles use much more spices and herbs. For example dried ginger was one of the staples in my mum’s kitchen because it’s obligatory in… tripe soup (the only trip dish I am fond of)! (Also hot paprika and marjoram are there). On the other hand, frankly who needs more spices in Pàprikàs csirke or other delicacies where the aromatic Hungarian paprika is just what they need…

  14. Jako dziecko szczerze nienawidzilam fasolki po bretonsku 😀 Ale kto wie, moze teraz by juz bylo inaczej? 😉 Sama nie pamietam, kiedy ostatnio ja jadlam, ale bylo to z pewnoscia grubo ponad 20 lat temu… Nie obiecuje wiec, ze zrobie 😉

    Pozdrawiam serdecznie! I milego weekendu zycze 🙂

    1. Ja zawsze uwielbialam fasolke. Tak bardzo, ze bardziej lubilam fasole od kielbasy (co u mnie jako wyjatkowo miesozernego dziecka bylo dziwne!). Dzieki, rowniez Ci zycze milego weekendu!

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