I have such fond memories of Pico island around this time of the year. As soon as summer kicks in, the island goes into “Festa” (festival) mode. It’s unlikely that you’ll find one weekend during the entire summer where there isn’t a festival in at least one of the Island’s towns. As a teen growing up on the Island, this meant a three-month-long party (yes, we got about 3 months of summer vacation 🙂
“Festas” are quite often religious in nature, but they also include lots of non-religious activities. Most of these festivals have a mass and a procession early in the day. At some of these festivals, the processions are quite long. You’ll often see some of the participants fulfilling their personal vows to God by walking barefoot, or making the trek on their knees, or carrying large heavy candles. Whether or not you’re a religious person, there’s something very impressive about their commitment and the sacrifice they make to fulfill their vows.
After the religious part of the festival, it’s common that the hosting town offers musical entertainment, food, and activities to amuse the crowds into the evening. I remember walking back and forth with friends along the festival strip. We’d talk and drink and eat a variety of foods from the many food tents (tascas), and we’d try to meet girls (sorry Liz, this was way before you were in the picture) ;-).
Most festivals include local and visiting philharmonic orchestras that play music into the evening. This type of music isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it always made the festival sound like a proper “festa”. I was actually a part of my town’s philharmonic for a few years when I lived there. I (sort of) played the clarinet.
Some festivals also include sports tournaments, like soccer and volleyball. In our town and a few others around the island, the afternoon also includes whaling canoe regattas, with both rowing and sailing competitions. These regattas are a blast and usually draw large crowds. Although the whaling practice ended many years ago, the community is very proud of its roots and uses these races as a connection to its past brave whalers.
At night is when the partiers come out to play. There are live band concerts and dances outdoors, DJs spinning at the local bar, and even raves that go on until sunrise. Man… there are some things from those days that I really miss. For one, I miss performing at dances with my bandmates. I was part of one of the island’s bands for about 4 years and I had so much fun! There’s an old video on YouTube of us playing our last dance before I made my way back to Canada. If you have sturdy ears (and nails scratching a chalkboard doesn’t bother you), give it a listen. We were never great, but I’ll never forget how much fun I had during that period of my life.
It goes without saying that the food is a key part of the festivals. In our town, some of the more common festival and dance treats include bifanas (marinated pork sandwiches), lula (marinated squid), caldo de peixe (fish stew), and favas (fava beans).
That brings me to today’s recipe – favas. Talk about taking a trip down memory lane. It didn’t take long before the aroma in the house took me back to the “festas” in Pico. Favas are such an iconic food at festivals. It wouldn’t be the same without having fava beans to snack on during a dance at the town’s social club. We’d all take our toothpicks and have-at-it until the paper plate was empty. Such simple pleasures made for such fond memories.
The rest of the family doesn’t love beans, so this one’s pretty much just for me. These are seriously delicious–so full of flavour.I really don’t make these often enough…but I should… and I will going forward! Please remember that most homes in the Azores have their own unique touch for making this recipe, but this should provide you with a good base to get started.
Make something that takes you back to a great memory and always eat well, friends!
Azores Festival Fava Bean Appetizer (favas para petisco)
- 1.1 lbs or 1/2 kg dried fava beans (see notes below)
- 1 tbsp coarse sea salt
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 large cooking onion, sliced thin
- 4 cloves garlic, diced
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes (or more if you want more kick)
- 1 1/2 tsp salt, fine
- Soak the fava beans for 2 days. To do this, place the dried fava beans in a large bowl and cover with water. Change the water every 12 to 14 hours. Ensure the fava beans are covered with water during the entire process. Note: these will expand quite a bit, so make sure your bowl has a bit of extra space.
- Discard the soaking water and place the dried fava beans in a large pot and cover them with water (I used about 8 cups of water).
- Add the coarse sea salt and cinnamon stick. Set the heat to medium high.
- Once the water starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the fava beans are very tender.
- While the fava beans are simmering, add half of the olive oil to a medium frying pan and heat it on medium.
- Once the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic.
- Sauté until the onions look translucent.Add the rest of the oil, tomato paste, ground cinnamon, hot pepper flakes and salt. Mix well, cook for another two minutes and remove the pan off the heat.
- Once the fava beans are fully cooked, drain the water from the pot into a medium bowl.
- Let the liquid settle for a bit until the water on top is mostly clear. Use a ladle to remove most of the clear water from the top.
- Using a ladle again, scoop out the left over thicker water on the bottom and pour about 1 cup over the onion mixture. Mix well.
- Add the onion mixture over the fava beans in the pot and stir until the fava beans are all coated.
- Transfer the finished fava beans to a deep serving dish and cover with a lid. Place a blanket over the serving dish to keep it warm and let it sit for about 1/2 hour to soak in the flavours.
- Serve these hot, warm or cold. Enjoy!
- The finished fava beans can be made ahead of time to be served the next day or even frozen. Simply microwave or slowly heat them up in a pot with with 1/4 cup of water before serving.
- Cooking time doesn't include the fava bean soaking time or the resting time after the dish is ready.
- Although I prefer the dried fava beans we used, you can also use canned fava beans if you're in a rush. In this case, you don't need to soak them. Simply discard the water from the cans, cover them in water in the pot, bring them to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes. Shut off the heat and follow the remaining steps in the recipe.