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Food & Drink

Fresh Barbunya Beans a la Mama

Fresh Barbunya Beans a la Mama

Funnily enough, I know the beans by their Turkish name, “Barbunya”. They’re usually called “Borlotti” or “Cranberry Beans”. They are a variety of kidney beans and have a sweet flavour with a smooth creamy texture. If you only have the dried variety, you should soak them in cold water overnight.

When I think of this dish, I think of simplicity. Sit down, shell the beans, cook them, eat them. Split open the curved inside seam of the pod with your thumb and remove the beans.

Like every other Turkish person, I learned this recipe from my mother. Every mum makes a different version of this dish, some add carrots, some add parsley. Everything is possible, only one thing should never be missing: Rice!


  • 1kg fresh beans (shell in) – yields about 500g after shelling
  • 10 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 big onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 2 big tomatoes, crushed in a food processor
  • 1tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1300 ml hot water


  1. Boil the beans in enough water to cover by an inch for about 20 minutes. Drain water and set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a big pot and stir in the onion and garlic, saute for 2-3 minutes, until they start to soften.
  3. Add the crushed tomatoes, the tomato paste, sugar and salt.
  4. Add the beans to the pot and give it a good mix. Pour in 400ml warm water, combine well.
  5. Bring the pot to the boil, then turn the heat to low and cover the pan.
  6. Cook everything for 45-60 minutes, until the beans are cooked, but not mushy. During this 1 hour, add the remaining water. 300ml water every 20 minutes, 900ml in total.
  7. Check the seasoning and add a little more salt if needed.
  8. Serve Barbunya at room temperature along with rice or cold as part of a mezze spread or as an appetizer.


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