Tolosa – beans

Last Saturday I spent the day in Tolosa. The town originally flourished as a pit-stop for travelers and merchants on their way to the French Basque Country. Nowadays Tolosa is well-known for its eponymous black beans (alubias de Tolosa), the chocolate and turrón factory (Gorrotxategi), Carnival celebrations in February, an award-winning puppet museum and its Saturday food markets.

I started off the morning by exploring the food markets. I was spoilt for choice but managed to restrict myself to half a kilo of Tolosa beans ( at a bargain price of  4.50€) and a jar of homemade fig jam. At an average price of 12€ per kilo, Tolosa beans are worth their weight in gold.

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They are characterised by their deep black shiny exterior marked by a single white spot. Whilst preparing the beans I discovered that when soaked overnight they go a beautiful violet blue:

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Come lunchtime we stopped off in a cute, rustic restaurant called El Veintiuno. We were practically the only people there so we got great, friendly service. My menu of the day included a starter of Tolosa beans with bacon, followed by bacalao in a tomato and pepper sauce and cheese and membrillo for dessert. We also wanted to try a sweet wine so they gave us a whole bottle of Pedro Jimenez to share!The highlight was definitely the beans though. So when I got home I set about preparing my own beans:

Serves 5

500g Tolosa beans

1 large onion

1 large leek

a pinch of salt

olive oil

100g chorizo

1. Begin by soaking the beans overnight in water.

2. Chop the onion and leek and soften in a little olive oil.

3. Add the beans and 1 litre of water (this should include the water the beans have been soaked in.)

4. Leave to cook for 2.5 hours or until the beans are tender. You may have to add more water if they start drying out.

5. Add the chopped chorizo for the last 2 minutes of cooking. Season to taste with salt and serve. As an optional extra you can top the dish with guindilla peppers.

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In the afternoon we explored the award-winning marionnette museum called Topic. We were the only guests in the museum which made for a very eerie experience. There were unnerving animated puppets, mirrors everywhere you turned and creepy circus-esque music. Having said that, it was an impressive collection which made great use of the space available to it.

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