Marrying the creamy Confit Bean and the delicate Mediterranean Pagel fish, chef and cooking educator, Vanesa Bustos, from the Palancia-Mijares convivium in Spain, created a delicious recipe that represents this corner of the world and promotes biodiversity.
Vanesa began her career in the kitchen at the age of 25, first studying in the kitchen school and then working as a cook in different restaurants, always seeking to work in kitchens where the product was pampered, with respect and taking into account its origin, and the way to produce it.
“I didn’t begin in the world of professional cooking early, even though I loved it. Nobody in my family had worked in the field before, but I have always had the example of my mother cooking at home, and the image of my grandmother cooking for a large family. Maybe that’s why since I was little I was struck by getting into pots and wanted to learn to cook, to know the processes that make food transform, and to reel off the ingredients in order to know them better.”
Her passion for cooking led her to become a teacher, giving cooking courses and connecting with people.
“Over time I realized I wanted to dedicate myself to teaching, which allowed me to do what I liked the most: cook and share what I know, transmitting the knowledge I have, and for me, this is the way to keep learning and growing every day.”
During her last year at cooking school, she learned about Slow Food and recognized the values with which she identifies. Since 2009 she has been linked to Slow Food, being part of the Convivium Palancia-Mijares in the regions of Alto Palancia and Alto Mijares, located southwest of the province of Castellón and border the provinces of Valencia and Teruel, since shortly after their creation.
“We have recently been creating the community of Cooks of the Iberian Terreta, within the Alliance of Cooks. For now, we are a few cooks with a common goal to work for education, in the cataloging of food within the Ark of Taste, and in short working for good, clean, and fair food.”
A large part of the members of this Convivium, and also of the community of cooks, live or come from small towns, and value the agricultural, livestock and rural world.
“Currently my work revolves around cooking and education, having as its axes gastronomic culture, healthy eating, sustainable and local cuisine, the importance of the product, respect and good treatment of raw materials, putting value to producers, environment and other elements that make it possible.
The dish that I propose is a stew of legumes and fish, made with Confit Beans and fish from the markets of the Mediterranean coast. The fish that I have used is patella or pagel, a fairly common fish on the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, with white and soft meat but very tasty, although with quite a few bones.”
The Confit Bean, Ark of Taste
The Confit Bean is a typical legume from the province of Castellón. Until about twenty years ago it was easy to find in supermarkets, sold by the farmers who grew it, or on the menus of restaurants in the area. Currently, it is known and appreciated in the towns where it is grown and among the neighbors, especially by the older residents.
The Confit Bean has been at risk of disappearing because it is not well-known by younger generations, and few producers are dedicated to the cultivation of this legume. A few years ago it was incorporated into the Ark of Taste, and the Cooperativa del pueblo de Viver is in charge of its distribution. Although its production is not large, its characteristics make it sell out in the markets where it can be found.
Like all beans, it must be soaked for about 24 hours until it doubles or triples in size, before cooking. It is a large legume, very creamy and with a soft and delicate skin, which makes it highly valued in the kitchen.
Confit beans stewed with pagel
300 g of Confit Beans (Ark of Taste)
1 clove garlic
1 ripe tomato
1 teaspoon of Pebre Tap de Cortí paprika (Ark of Taste)
4 pagel fish (can be substituted by some other fish from the market)
1 bay leaf
Extra virgin olive oil
– Soak the beans in cold water for 24 hours. If it is very hot, leave them soaking in the refrigerator.
– Drain the beans, rinse them under running water and place in a pot covered with cold water, with a few black peppercorns, a bay leaf, and an onion.
– Put the casserole on the fire and bring them to a boil. When it starts to boil, lower the heat and cook over low heat for about 2 and a half hours until they are tender, and add the salt at the end. During cooking, remove the foam that forms on the surface with the help of a slotted spoon. If during cooking they run out of water, add cold water.
– Chop the onion and garlic and grate the tomato.
– Clean the fish by removing the inners and scales. Remove the fillets leaving the skin on them and reserve the rib bones.
– In a pot with a splash of olive oil, brown the fish bones with a pinch of salt. When they have taken color, cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook for about 20 minutes over low heat. Strain and reserve.
– In a saucepan, sauté the onion and garlic for about 10 minutes, until the onion is tender and begins to take color.
– Add a teaspoon of paprika and then the grated tomato. Let it fry until it is well concentrated. Season with salt and pepper and add a few strands of saffron.
– Once the beans are cooked, add them to the sauce and cover them with the fish stock. Cover and cook gently for 5 minutes.
– Add salt and pepper and add the fish fillets to the casserole, placing them on top of the beans, cover again and leave for a couple more minutes.
– Rectify with salt and pepper, and serve.