Peasant Fare: Pressure Cooker Ligurian Bean Stew
The January cover of La Cucina Italiana caught my eye with a wonderfully wintery soup. The recipe seemed like a perfect candidate for the pressure cooker – and improvisation!
The description of the recipe evoked a romantic vision of port wives sweeping up any grains, legumes and spices dropped from holes in the sacks destined to to Genoa. They would wash them off and the toss them into a simmering pot for dinner.
In fact, there is no exact recipe for Mesciua so my mind was set free. I slipped into the imaginary sandals of a port wife, broom in-hand, finding culinary gold between the planks of wood on the dock to greedily shove in my pockets and bring home to make a rich and flavorful “peasant” dish.
Let your fantasy, and pantry, dictate what you will use in your own soup. You could use any beans, grain and spice. The recipe used cannelllini and chickpeas, farro or buckwheat, and finished with a grind of pepper at the end. The grains of Farro seemed to get lost in all of those round and plump beans so I chose barley. And, even though La Cucina Italiana insists finishing with black pepper (an exotic spice 400 years ago). I say that you could use any spice that you find in your pantry which might be neglected (no more than three, please)!
So make your own mesciua (mix) with any two or more bean varieties, any grain and any spice!
Instead of cooking each bean variety separately, I pressure cooked them together using the steamer basket for the canellini beans (which only need half the pressure cooking time of the Chickpeas). Adjust the cooking times for your version according to your bean and grain cooking times.
|Pressure Cooker||Accessories||Pr. Cook Time||Pr. Level||Open|
|5 L or larger||steamer basket||15 min.||High (2)||Natural|
- 1 heaping cup (200g) of Chickpeas (or Garbanzo Beans), dry
- 1 heaping cup (200g) of Canellini (or Navy) Beans, dry
- ½ cup (100g) Perlated Barley
- 1 Garlic Clove
- 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil (see notes).
- The spices of your choosing (maximum 3). I used:
- 1 clove, 3-5 pepper kernels, 2-3 coriander seeds
- 4 cups or 1 L Water
- Salt and Pepper to Taste (I used 2 tsp. Salt and 1 tsp. ground pepper)
- Unrefined or High-quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil to finish
- Ricotta Salata or Pecorino Romano, peeled into ribbons
- Tea Infuser ( to hold the spices)
- The night before, soak each bean variety separately. Or quick-soak the beans – for now, each variety should be treated separately.
- Rinse the chickpeas and put them in the pressure cooker with the garlic clove, tea infuser filled with spices, the water, barley and salt. For pressure cookers with a jiggler or weight-modifyed pressure valve (these make a lot of noise and release vapor during operation) add a 1 Tbsp of Olive Oil to control foaming. For modern spring-valve or electric pressure cookers (these use a spring valve) you can omit doing this – because we will not be using the valve to release pressure in this recipe.
- Next, add the steamer basket containing the rinsed canellini beans.
- Close and lock the lid of the pressure cooker. Turn the heat up to high and when the cooker reaches pressure, lower to the heat to the minimum required by the cooker to maintain pressure. Cook for 15 minutes at high pressure.
- When time is up, open the pressure cooker using the Natural Release method – move the cooker to cold burner and don’t do anything and wait for the pressure to come down naturally (this could take up to 20 minutes).
- Pour the beans from the steamer basket into the pot, remove the tea infuser. Adjust for salt and pepper, stir well and let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.
- Scoop into individual bowls and garnish with optional cheese ribbons a drizzle of unfiltered, or your best, olive oil.