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Pasulj is a Serbian soup made with white beans. Inexpensive and hearty, pasulj is very popular in Serbia with the lower class. This soup always has onion and usually includes other vegetables as well. In Serbia, it is considered a comfort food.
Generally, pasulj includes sausage, though bacon or ham may be added instead. Whatever meat is chosen, it is normally smoked. The meat is cut or sliced before being added to the soup.
Either dried or canned white cannellini beans or navy beans are used in pasulj. If dried beans are used, they are often soaked in water overnight or boiled first, then allowed to soak in cold water for about half an hour before they are used in the soup. The beans will still be hard after soaking.
Pasulj is generally well seasoned. Paprika, both sweet and hot varieties, and peppercorns are almost always included. Bay leaves are also a common seasoning. Onions, garlic, and parsley are used to season this dish as well.
In addition to seasonings, bell peppers, carrots, and tomato paste may be included. Sunflower or olive oil is used to fry the onions and sometimes the meat. Unlike many soups which use broth or stock for their liquid base, pasulj normally uses only water, relying on the meat, vegetables and spices to provide the taste.
To make pasulj, the onions and bacon, if used, are fried in oil in the pot that will be used for the soup. The seasonings are then included and allowed to cook briefly before the water, tomato paste, and beans are placed in the pot. The soup is then simmered for about two hours, until the beans are soft.
The sausage is added after the soup has been simmering for about an hour. Salt, usually added to taste, is not included until the very end of the cooking process, after the beans are soft. If added before the beans soften, the salt will cause the beans to remain hard even when the soup is finished cooking.
Sometimes a thickening paste is added during cooking. Paprika and flour are placed in oil and heated in a separate pan to form the paste. This paste is then included in the soup. Some recipes, particularly those that do not include a paste, suggest mashing some of the beans to help thicken the stew. The beans may be mashed against the sides of the pot using a potato masher or the back of a large spoon.
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