Updated on November 29th 2023
Making a Delicious Istrian Stew
This is a simple, hearty stew using beans, potatoes, sauerkraut and garlic as its main ingredients.
Originally a peasant dish to warm the belly in winter, Istrian stew is also a wonderful base for other ingredients such as smoked pork spareribs, sour turnips and onions.
It was traditionally cooked slowly over an open hearth called a fogolar, allowing the appetising aroma of wood smoke and bubbling stew to fill the kitchen.
Many versions of Istrian Stew, with different names and ingredients, can be found from Trieste all the way down the Istrian peninsula to Croatia.
A visitor to Trieste will find local dishes with Austrian, Hungarian, Slovenian and Croation influences, including goulash, Viennese sausage, fermented turnips and strudel, along with excellent San Daniele hams, Sauris bacon, Montasio cheese and superior wines from Collio and the river plains of Friuli.
And since Trieste was at one time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and at the crossroads of Latin, Slavic and Germanic cultures it was in a perfect location to absorb the cuisine of its neighbours. These influences (such as the use of sauerkraut) are evident in this dish.
Istrian Stew Recipe
For the best flavour choose a double smoked bacon, pancetta or prosciutto. It is preferable to choose meat that has been thickly sliced.
Select unpasteurised sauerkraut with no added preservatives or sugar.
Dried lima beans 250g - 1 ½ cups
Potatoes 250g - ½ lb
Bacon or pancetta 300g - 10 oz
Sauerkraut 200g - 1 ½ cups
Bay leaf 1
Olive oil 3 tbsp
Clove of garlic 1
Flour 2 tbsp
Salt and pepper to taste
Directions for Making Istrian Stew
1 - Fill a bowl with water add the beans then allow to soak for 24 hours.
2 - Rinse and drain the beans. Place in a medium saucepan
3 - Peel the potatoes and cut into quarters. Place in the saucepan with the beans.
4 - Cut the bacon into 1-2cm cubes and add to the saucepan.
5 - Add water to cover. Bring to the boil. Cover the saucepan and cook until the potatoes and beans are soft.
6 - Remove half the beans and potatoes, push through a sieve and return to the pan.
7 - Cook the sauerkraut in a little water with the bay leaf for a few minutes, shaking the pan occasionally and drain.
8 - Peel and chop the garlic clove coarsely.
9 - Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a small frying pan and add the garlic. Cook until brown over a low heat and then remove the garlic.
10 - Mix the flour into the oil and cook gently for 2 minutes.
11 - Add the sauerkraut and cook gently for five minutes then transfer to the saucepan containing the bacon, potatoes and beans.
12 - Add the remaining oil and simmer gently for another 30 minutes until the lima beans are tender, adding more water if necessary.
13 - Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.
Now settle yourself by the fogolar. Cradle your bowl of Istrian stew with a few steamed greens and some crusty bread to mop up the juices plus a glass of frothy local beer to cheer the heart. Just perfect.
Perfect Traveller would like to welcome Carole Redlich to the team of contributors. Her knowledge of food culture, across the world and food preparation is unsurpassed. Fortunately for followers of, and subscribers to Perfect Traveller, she has a passion for Italian food and its history which she will share with you.
Osteria Istriano Of Giobi and Oxais a very good place to enjoy excellent food and local wines. In the summer months you will be tempted by fresh, melt in your mouth seafood. Trieste is a great place to enjoy seafood.
In the winter however, this place comes into its own with a wonderful selection of traditional soups to keep the cold away. And of course, you will try their Istrian stew.
This popular place is closed all day Monday, and on Sunday open for lunch only.
This story was originally published on November 26th 2023
Carole Redlich loves clothes, fabric, shoes and has a well deserved reputation as a wonderful cook who investigates and enjoys cooking food from many countries, including Italy.