- 250 g dried white beans
- 9 cups water
- 3-4 tbsp oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 cubanelle pepper (or green pepper), finely chopped
- 1/2 cup celery root (or celery branch), finely chopped, optional
- black pepper
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1-2 tsp dried (or fresh) spearmint
- lovage (or celery) leaves, optional
- 1 tomato, finely chopped (or 1 tbsp tomato paste)
- fresh parsley, chopped
Bob chorba (pronounced bop) is a Bulgarian white bean soup, that is very similar in consistency and in tradition to Italian minestrone. It is a thick nutritious meal, with an added variety of vegetables, such as the sweetness of cubanelle pepper and the tangy celery, and Bulgarian spices. Bob is great for the colder months, especially considering it is one of the prime elements of the Christmas dinner.
Once you adopt this recipe, you can adapt it freely to your taste. White beans are easily replaced by kidney beans, vegetables are easily added or substracted and the consistency can be adjusted to thicker or thinner, to your liking. However, don’t forget that the most essential part of this soup are the spices. The sweet distinctive taste of one Bulgarian favorite, paprika, is counterbalanced by the refreshing taste of spearmint, whose whole leaves can be used both fresh or dried. And despite what some people might say, do not mix together spearmint and savory, the two Bulgarian favorites. In fact, spearmint is to bob what savory is to leshta, the only one predominant aroma that makes each one of these soups unique.
- Wash the white beans, or if you choose to replace them with red kidney beans, in cold running water. Then place them in a large saucepan and soak them in cold water overnight.
- The following morning, discard the soaking water. Add 3 cups of clean water to the beans in the pan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
- After boiling for about 5 minutes, take the saucepan off the heat and discard once again the water, leaving only the beans in the pan.
- Add the oil to the beans in the saucepan and fry gently over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add 4 cups of clean water to the sauteed beans in the saucepan. Add 1/2 of the large onion, finely chopped, and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer the beans until they start becoming tender.
- Then add the finely chopped carrot, cubanelle pepper and the other 1/2 onion to the beans. If you choose to add celery or celery root to the soup, add it at this stage as well.
- Drop in the spices, stirring well after each one. Start with salt and black pepper, then add the paprika, the spearmint leaves, and finally the dried lovage leaves or as a replacement fresh celery leaves finely chopped. Keep the soup simmering until the beans are completely cooked but remain whole. Do not overcook them into becoming a puree.
- Add the finely chopped tomato or 1 tbsp tomato paste to the soup. Mix well and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Soup should have a rather thick consistency, resembling Italian minestrone.
Bob is traditionally served in Bulgarian hand-painted terracotta bowls. It should be steming hot and can be sprinkled with a few chopped sprigs of fresh parsley.
It is a very nutritious meal, so serve smaller portions for an appetizer. As a main dish, serve it simply with some white crusty bread that you previously warmed for a few minutes in the oven. Add to it a side of a fresh and zesty mezze, such a homemade kyopolou as a spread for the bread.