Black Russian, Not Just a Cocktail
Beans are close to my heart: I remember my grandmother growing them in her garden in the village of Vitebsk (now in Belarus) when I was little. She cultivated a great variety of legumes, including the fava beans known as Black Russians. Back then I didn’t like them particularly and I only ate them fresh, when they were still green and immature.
Professional interest in this product disappeared along with the culture of fava beans in Russia. For inhabitants of Mediterranean countries this will sound strange, but favas are not sold at all in Russian shops and markets: not fresh, tinned or dried. They are only rarely cultivated by enthusiasts in their private gardens, and then, just for their own use.
Back at the start of the 20th century, however, they were a common food. Russia even had a special variety of northern fava that did not exist anywhere else in the world, whose violet-black color led to it being called Black Russian. In my restaurant, Mark i Lev, these black favas, fresh and dried, are used in various dishes.
Luckily this variety has managed to survive and is now in the Ark of Taste. The recipe that I offer here is based on a historic dish from the Russa Povarnya cookbook, written in 1816 by Vasily Levshin, a scientist and encyclopedist from Tula.
Black Favas with Turnips and Hot Peppers (serves 4)
300g Black Russian fava beans (still green and immature)
100g spinach leaves
120g hot green pepper
200g Black Russian fava pods
200 ml almond milk
- Blanch the black fava beans and spinach in boiling salted water for 5 minutes, then drain and puree until smooth.
- Roast the green pepper for 10 minutes at 200°C, leave to cool then cut in half and remove the seeds. Dice the pepper.
- Dice the turnip and onion and mince the garlic. Sauté in oil for 3 minutes, then reduce the heat and add the fava pods and green pepper. Cook until soft, around 5 minutes.
- Add the almond milk and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. Add nutmeg and salt to taste.