Food is culture. Recipes are more than a list of ingredients, they also speak about different ways of life and values.

Pendolòn, for instance, is a tangible memory of the past, when people used to work in the fields for long hours, bringing their food from home. Peasants’ life was hard, when lunch was a short break to boost people's energy with inexpensive but nourishing food. Pendolòn (which literally means ‘dangling’) is a kind of polenta from the Lamon region in Veneto. Made with borlotti beans and potato, and enriched with pancetta and onions, it is a nutritious and filling meal that peasants used to carry with them to the fields. As it dangled from their shoulders, they called it pendolòn.

The recipe is in Beans & Friends, the latest book on pulses Claude and I wrote together.

Here we enjoyed bringing to life the creativity of the Italian cucina povera, which could transform plain ingredients such as beans and potatoes, into a tasty and fulfilling meal just by dressing it with crunchy pancetta and onions. It is a heavy lunch for our time, but still delicious.

250 g dry borlotti beans
1 carrot, roughly chopped
3 medium blond onions
1 celery stick
2 bay leaves
1 kg baking potatoes, washed, skin on
160 g pancetta slices, chopped
40 g butter

Preparation time: 30 minutes plus the beans’ soaking time
Cooking time: 110 minutes
Serves 6 to 8

  1. In a large bowl, cover the beans with cold water, and soak overnight. 
  2. The next day, drain and rinse. 
  3. In a pan, cover the beans with fresh water, bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes. Drain, return the beans to the pan and cover with boiling water. Add the carrot, 1 onion peeled and quartered, the celery stick and the bay leaves. Season with salt and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes until tender. 
  4. Drain the beans, discard the vegetables and the bay leaves and keep 2 ladleful of the cooking water. 
  5. Meanwhile, in another pan, cover the potatoes with fresh water and bring to the boil. Leave on a simmer for 40 minutes until tender. Drain. 
  6. Finely chop the remaining onions. 
  7. In a frying pan, heat the butter and gently sauté the pancetta with the onions on low heat, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Keep hot. 
  8. In a food processor, mash the beans into a coarse paste, adding some of their cooking water, if necessary; mash potatoes with a ricer. 
  9. In a large pan, mix beans and potatoes together and heat. 
  10. Stir in the pancetta and onion; cook on low heat for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until you get a dense paste like polenta. Season with salt and pepper. 
  11. Arrange the pendolòn in a large dish, and let it set few minutes before serving.

Tony, profession, window cleaner, enjoyed eating Pendolón  when we were testing the recipe

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