Catalan Bean {and Pea} Stew

Depending on how we see things, we could consider cooking this dish as a luxury. If you adore cooking, you adore the gorgeous smell of fresh beans and peas being shelled out of the pod, a process which lazily takes up quite a lot of time.

Or maybe not. It could be the other way around. If spending time in the kitchen, digging your fingernails into green pods to take out beans and pods might not be the thing for you, it might sound like a torturous way to spend your precious time.

For me, as long as I have the time to spare, I think it’s a luxury. I love the sweet green scent that fills the kitchen. I like doing things with my hands. I think the taste of the dish with fresh legumes is so much better that using the preprocessed or frozen versions.


Fresh peas

I made this dish last weekend shortly after reading this post The Educated Eater by Fat Heffalump through Freshly Pressed on WP. It talks about the fat / junk food tax, and about how society likes to think that poor people are sometimes overweight because they are not educated enough to know about healthy living. The author points out that often the poorest people know exactly how much each food and ingredient costs. They know the precise nutritional value of everything. It’s just that fresh ingredients are often more expensive than unhealthy foods. Plus, cooking from scratch often takes time, which if one is juggling various jobs and bringing up children, leisurely time is not something one has much of. Even though I have a mission to feature simple and quick recipes in my blog – although this recipe for today is not exactly fast to make, about 90% of my recipes are – I perfectly understand the point of the post The Educated Eater. And it was very present in my mind as I shelled the beans and peas.

Shelling beans and peas took up a lot of time. That is obvious and can be considered through various angles. Your time might be more necessary in doing some other task or work. Or maybe you time is worth a lot per hour. Whatever the case, it’s obvious that buying frozen already shelled beans and peas is quicker to make.

Is buying frozen already shelled beans and peas also cheaper?

The price of my beans was okish. They were 2.50 € / kg. But, oh my goodness, the price of the peas were 8.50 € / kg. And the volume of peas shelled out of their pods was less than the equivalent volume of beans. Here is the proof:

Fresh peas vs. fresh beans

Between the time taken and the monetary costs of the peas as such, as humble as the dish may initially seem, it was in fact expensive.

Peas in pods

Peas and beans

Bean pods

Peeled green beans

Removing beans

Catalan bean stew

Catalan Bean and Pea Stew

The original name of this stew is Habas a la Catalana (in Spanish), o Favas a la Catalana (in Catalan). I must dedicate this post to my butcher, because I never planned on making this stew, nor did I know of its existence, but he told me about it and was telling me how to make it when I asked him what that dark looking sausage type thing was. It’s called bull (pronounced bui in Catalan) and it’s similar to black pudding. The white thing next to it in the picture is cansalada (in Catalan) which is basically pork fat…

Cansalada and black pudding

Mint from my garden

Mint and Laurel

The original recipe doesn’t really call for peas. Adding peas sort of smooths out the flavour, as does adding a few mint leaves and anise.


Fava beans, peas (optional), 250g bull, 100g cansalada, 1 onion, 2 cloves garlic, 2 tomatoes, 5 laurel leaves, mint (optional), anise liqueur (optional and can be substituted for with white wine), salt, black pepper, 2 teaspoons olive oil

Shell the fava beans and peas. I saw that many websites say that after shelling the beans you also need to remove the outer peel of the beans. We don’t usually do that in Spain, and eating it is optional.

Bring water to boil in a large pot. Boil the fava beans and peas for as long as it takes to do the next step…

Peel and chop the onion. Pour some olive oil in a pan. Cook the onion over low heat until soft. Peel and chop the garlic. Add to the onion and cook for a couple of minutes. Chop the tomatoes. Add the tomatoes, mint and laurel and continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Add some water if it looks like it might dry out.

Chop the cansalada and the bull. Add the cansalada. Cook for a few minutes.

Drain the beans and peas. Add them to the pan. Add the bull and a few drops of anise. Add some salt and black pepper to taste. Cook for a couple of minutes.

Catalan stew with black pudding

Enjoy your meal!

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  1. Mabel Kwong 2015-03-13 at 03:23

    Shelling peas is really harder than anyone thinks. So stubborn to open 😀 I rarely eat them like that tough…prefer to eat it from the freezer to save time…don’t know if those are preserved. I’m guessing most of them must be.

    1. Sofia 2015-03-16 at 20:46

      I’ll let you in on a secret, most of the time I don’t like peas (so I don’t even buy them frozen). The fact that I had to shell them made them more fun, and made them more enjoyable to eat!

  2. Ginger 2015-03-13 at 07:00

    I love beans, and these look delicious!

  3. Spanish Kitchenette (@spanishkitchene) 2015-03-13 at 07:54

    Such a complete post to explain and spread our food culture all around the internet world. I MUST share it as a catalan human being.
    And yes, I was also shocked by the price of the not frozen beans *open eyes*

    1. Sofia 2015-03-16 at 20:48

      Thanks for sharing it on your twitter 🙂 There’s a lot of Catalan food I love! What are some of your favourites? I love esqueixada in summer!

  4. lovinghomemade 2015-03-13 at 10:19

    Shelling peas and beans can be quite therapeutic, if you have the time to spend, and the money to spend on the unprocessed food. But you’re right, time is as much a luxury as money. Great post.

    1. Sofia 2015-03-16 at 20:50

      Aww thanks! Yes it can be therapeutic when you have the time and money. Have a great week!

  5. Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward 2015-03-13 at 16:04

    So healthy, tasty and regional! I wish we had all of the ingredients here! Great photos and writing, too, Sofia!

    1. Sofia 2015-03-16 at 20:49

      Hmmm you could substitute the bull for black pudding? (or sausage) and the cansalada for bacon. I would suppose you have the rest of the ingredients!

      1. Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward 2015-03-17 at 00:48

        I actually noticed a few things that are hard to find here. Maybe I’ll move in with you in Spain. Haha. 🙂

  6. Karen 2015-03-13 at 21:29

    What a lovely recipe…it reminds me of spring. 🙂

  7. Kiss & Make-up 2015-03-14 at 19:56

    This looks good! I’d obviously leave the meat out. And I’d probably add some extra sundried tomatoes or something. But peas are a great choice for vegetarians.

    1. Sofia 2015-03-16 at 20:51

      Oh yeah, sundried tomatoes would go well, and maybe mushrooms!

  8. pianolearner 2015-03-17 at 22:32

    That looks gorgeous. What carb would you have with it?

    1. Sofia 2015-03-17 at 22:37

      Beans and peas are vitamin and protein rich carbs, right?


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