Grah – Balkan bean stew

Grah - balkan bean stew

When two of my friends announced they’d be moving to Herceg Novi, Montenegro for several months this year, I was excited for them and thrilled at the opportunity to visit them in a new part of world. After they settled in, started with the language, and began making local friends, I booked my flight to Dubrovnik. I ordered a Serbo-Croatian phrasebook and I started reading about cultural and culinary traditions, politics, and the history of the region. My friends arranged for me to rent a studio apartment in their building, with a balcony overlooking the Bay of Kotor and the Adriatic Sea. For our visit to Dubrovnik, they booked a furnished flat, and we got a kitschy and fun Jimi Hendrix themed place for a few days on the hillside overlooking the old city.

Admittedly, the West Balkans aren’t always among the world’s most convenient countries for vegetarian and vegan eating habits, but the offerings of fantastic fruit trees, local vegetables, and great bakeries made for many good eats and great times. Also, at all of the restaurants I visited, everyone was understanding, helpful, and quick to suggest existing, modified, or even newly invented menu options from the kitchen. At “home”, I ate fairly simple: including things like buckwheat with apples and local cherry jam, local fresh bread, steamed kale and broccoli, raw carrots, olives and roasted red peppers, fresh orange juice, and pomegranates we’d picked from trees in the countryside and little towns.

This recipe for Grah – Balkan Bean Stew was inspired by our visit to Nishta vegetarian restaurant in the Old Town (Stari Grad) of Dubrovnik. Traditionally, along with beans, vegetables, and lots of paprika, Grah is usually made with a few ingredients I choose not to eat, so it was great to have it at a vegetarian restaurant. Of course, it would’ve been even better if I’d been served it at someone’s home! This hearty dish is quick and easy, can be modified in many ways to your liking, and goes with all kinds of things.

Hvala puno!

Balkan bean stew

serves 3 to 4 / time 35 min

updated (2021) recipe from The Lotus and the Artichoke – WORLD 2.0
(Rezept auf Deutsch unten)

  • 2 cups (14 oz / 400 g) white beans (cooked)
  • 7 oz (200 g) vegan sausage, seitan, or smoked tofu chopped
  • 5–8 medium (100 g) mushrooms chopped
  • 1 medium (100 g) tomato chopped
  • 1 medium (90 g) onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika ground
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper ground
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups (480 ml) water
  • 1 Tbs corn starch or 1 Tbs flour
  • 2 Tbs nutritional yeast flakes or 1 Tbs vegetable broth powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt more as needed
  • fresh parsley chopped, for garnish
  1. Heat oil in a large pot on medium heat.
  2. Add chopped onion and garlic. Fry, stirring constantly, until onions are browned, 3–4 min.
  3. Stir in ground smoked paprika and black pepper. Continue to fry until onions soften, another 2–3 min. 
  4. Add chopped mushrooms, tomato, vegan sausage or seitan or smoked tofu, and bay leaves. Mix well. Cook partially covered, stirring often, 2–3 min.
  5. Stir in cooked beans. Mix well, cook 2–3 min.
  6. Stir in 1 cup (240 ml) water. Simmer on low 5 min.
  7. In a bowl, whisk corn starch (or flour) and 1/2 cup (120 ml) water. Gradually stir into simmering stew. Simmer until thickened, stirring often, 2–3 min.
  8. Mix in nutritional yeast (or vegetable broth powder) and salt. Continue to simmer another 10–15 min, gradually stirring in remaining 1/2 cup (120 ml) water (or more) as needed. Cover and remove from heat.
  9. Adjust salt to taste. Garnish with parsley and more sprinkled paprika. Serve with bread.


Vegetables: Along with (or instead of) mushrooms, add chopped carrots, red pepper, and/or more tomato.

The Lotus and the Artichoke - WORLD 2.0 Vegan Cookbook cover

Dubrovnik: Stari Grad (Old Town) - The Lotus and the Artichoke

Dubrovnik: View from Stari Grad (Old Town) - The Lotus and the Artichoke

Montenegro: Village on a Hill - The Lotus and the Artichoke

Grah - balkan bean stew

Bohneneintopf aus dem Balkan

3 bis 4 Portionen / Dauer 35 Min.

Neues (2021) Rezept aus The Lotus and the Artichoke – WORLD 2.0

  • 2 Tassen (400 g) weiße Bohnen (gekocht)
  • 200 g vegane Wurst, Seitan oder Räuchertofu gehackt
  • 5–8 mittelgroße (100 g) Champignons gehackt
  • 1 mittelgroße (100 g) Tomate gehackt
  • 1 mittelgroße (90 g) Zwiebel gehackt
  • 2 Knoblauchzehen fein gehackt
  • 2 EL Pflanzenöl
  • 2 TL geräuchertes Paprikapulver
  • 1/2 TL schwarzer Pfeffer gemahlen
  • 2 Lorbeerblätter
  • 2 Tassen (480 ml) Wasser
  • 1 EL Speisestärke oder 1 EL Mehl
  • 2 EL Hefeflocken oder 1 EL Gemüsebrühpulver
  • 3/4 TL Salz bei Bedarf mehr
  • frische Petersilie gehackt, zum Garnieren
  1. Öl in einem großen Topf auf mittlerer Flamme erhitzen.
  2. Zwiebel und Knoblauch hineingeben und 3 bis 4 Min. unter Rühren anschwitzen, bis die Zwiebel gebräunt ist.
  3. Paprikapulver und schwarzen Pfeffer einrühren. Weitere 2 bis 3 Min. braten, bis die Zwiebel weich ist.
  4. Champignons, Tomate, vegane Wurst oder Seitan oder Räuchertofu und Lorbeerblätter einrühren.
    2 bis 3 Min. halb abgedeckt unter häufigem Rühren schmoren.
  5. Gekochte Bohnen hinzufügen, gut umrühren und 2 bis 3 weitere Min. schmoren.
  6. 1 Tasse (240 ml) Wasser einrühren und 5 Min. auf niedriger Flamme köcheln lassen.
  7. Stärke oder Mehl und 1/2 Tasse (120 ml) Wasser in einer kleinen Schüssel verrühren. Nach und nach unter den köchelnden Eintopf rühren. Grah 2 bis 3 Min. unter Rühren köcheln lassen, bis er eindickt.
  8. Hefeflocken oder Gemüsebrühpulver und Salz einrühren. Weitere 10 bis 15 Min. köcheln, dabei nach und nach die restliche 1/2 Tasse (120 ml) Wasser oder bei Bedarf mehr unterrühren. Abdecken und vom Herd nehmen.
  9. Abschmecken und auf Wunsch nachsalzen. Mit frischer gehackter Petersilie und Paprikapulver garnieren und mit frischem Brot servieren.


Mehr Gemüse: Zusammen mit oder anstelle der Pilze gehackte Möhre, Paprika und/oder mehr Tomate zugeben.

The Lotus and the Artichoke - Vegane Rezepte eines Weltreisenden WORLD 2.0 veganes Kochbuch

Carrot Ginger Zucchini Soup

Carrot Ginger Zucchini Soup

I’ve been making variations of this vegan Carrot Ginger soup recipe for over fifteen years. The inspiration for the recipe came from my friend Monika, a former co-worker from South Africa whom I met when we were part-time English teachers at Berlitz Language School in our early years in a quite different, far less gentrified and commercial Berlin.

It’s been years since I heard from Monika– also a passionate cook, polyglot, and world adventurer. She had fantastic stories of doing research work with primates in the rainforests of Central America, and we regularly talked travel, came up with new destinations, and talked about unconventional life ambitions and all the wild characters in our lives. Whenever I make this soup, I always think of her and the early 2000s here in Berlin… meeting in sparsely-furnished Altbau flats (for a while she didn’t have a fridge and kept perishable food items outside the kitchen window in the cold), inviting our international friends, telling her techno-junkie neighbor to turn his raging music down, lunch meet-ups doing tech support on flailing iMacs, and most most memorably– picnics and hikes around the countryside lakes.

The recipe she gave me after a dinner party in Friedrichshain was for Carrot Ginger Pumpkin soup. I’ve modified her recipe over the years to include potato (for a vegan creamy texture) and soy milk instead of cream. I also often use other vegetables (in this case zucchini) instead of pumpkin.

I love to cook with what I have in the kitchen, and I still change up this soup accordingly all the time. This is an all-year soup that you can vary in thickness and spice according to weather and whim. Like thicker soups? Easy: Add less water. Not in the mood for thick wintery soup? No trouble: increase the water or soy milk slightly. It’s also easy to make a more South Asian version by increasing the appropriate spices, using fresh turmeric, and I’ve even turned this into a sort of dal (lentil) fusion soup adding a cup of cooked red lentils to the vegetables before puréeing. And if you want a more European and less Asian soup, drop or reduce the cumin and coriander and add lots of fresh thyme, basil, rosemary– and possibly some tomato paste or chopped tomatoes.

This soup works great as a starter served along with a healthy salad (such as my Arugula Pear Walnut salad favorite) warming up to a nice, hearty meal. It impresses guests every time and everyone always asks for more.

It’s also a hit for families and with kids. My son isn’t a big fan of fresh ginger, so I always dial that down and bit and often add cooked lentils. Like his dad, he’s kinda a Dal-aholic.

Double the soup and have enough for a few days. You won’t get bored of it, especially if you have plenty of good bread, tasty crackers, or your own tasty croutons. It can also be frozen and kept for a quick, delicious meal next week, or whenever when you’re too lazy to cook.

Carrot Ginger Zucchini Soup

serves 4 / time 35 min

recipe from The Lotus and the Artichoke – WORLD 2.0
(Rezept auf Deutsch unten)

  • 3 medium (300 g) carrots peeled, chopped
  • 3 medium (300 g) potatoes peeled, chopped
  • 1 medium (250 g) zucchini chopped
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 small red (60 g) onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 in (3 cm) fresh ginger finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin ground
  • 1 tsp coriander ground
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg ground
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper ground
  • 1/2 tsp paprika ground
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) white wine or water
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric ground
  • 1 Tbs nutritional yeast flakes optional 
  • 3/4 tsp salt more as needed
  • 1 cup (240 ml) soy milk
  • 3 cups (720 ml) vegetable broth
  • or 3 cups (720 ml) water + 1 Tbs vegetable broth powder
  • fresh herbs for garnish
  1. Heat oil in large pot on medium heat. Add chopped onion, garlic, ginger, ground cumin, coriander, nutmeg, black pepper, and paprika. Mix well. Fry until garlic and onions are browned, 2–3 min.
  2. Add chopped carrots, potatoes, and zucchini. Mix well with spices, cook until browned, 3–5 min.
  3. Add lemon juice and 1/4 cup (60 ml) white wine (or water). Cook partially covered, stirring often, until all vegetables are soft, 7–10 min. Remove from heat.
  4. Transfer to a blender. Add soy milk and purée until smooth. (Alternately use an immersion blender.)
  5. Return purée to pot on medium heat. Stir in turmeric and nutritional yeast flakes (if using) and simmer 2–3 min.
  6. Stir in 2–3 cups (480–720 ml) vegetable broth (or water and broth powder) gradually, maintaining  a gentle boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer to desired consistency, another 5–10 min, gradually adding more broth or water as needed.
  7. Continue to cook on medium low heat, reduce to desired consistency. Stir in salt, adjusting to taste.
  8. Garnish with fresh herbs and some ground paprika and black pepper.
  9. Serve with bread, croutons, or crackers.


Vedic: Replace garlic and onions with 1/8 tsp asafoetida (hing) and 1 tsp black mustard seeds.
Pumpkin: Replace carrots and zucchini with chopped pumpkin. Cashew creamy: Instead of soy milk,
blend with 1 cup (240 ml) water and 2–3 Tbs cashews, ideally soaked for 30 min beforehand.

The Lotus and the Artichoke - WORLD 2.0 Vegan Cookbook cover


4 Portionen / Dauer 35 Min.

  • 3 mittelgroße (300 g) Möhren geschält, gehackt
  • 3 mittelgroße (300 g) Kartoffeln geschält, gehackt
  • 1 mittelgroße (250 g) Zucchini gehackt
  • 2 EL Olivenöl
  • 1 kleine rote (60 g) Zwiebel gehackt
  • 2 Knoblauchzehen fein gehackt
  • 3 cm frischer Ingwer gehackt
  • 1 TL Kreuzkümmel gemahlen
  • 1 TL Koriander gemahlen
  • 1/8 TL Muskat gemahlen
  • 1/2 TL schwarzer Pfeffer gemahlen
  • 1/2 TL Paprikapulver
  • 1 EL Zitronensaft
  • 1/4 Tasse (60 ml) Weißwein oder Wasser
  • 1/2 TL Kurkuma gemahlen
  • 1 EL Hefeflocken wenn gewünscht
  • 3/4 TL Salz bei Bedarf mehr
  • 1 Tasse (240 ml) Sojamilch
  • 3 Tassen (720 ml) Gemüsebrühe
  • oder 3 Tassen (720 ml) Wasser
    + 1 EL Gemüsebrühpulver
  • frische Kräuter zum Garnieren
  1. Öl in einem großen Topf auf mittlerer Flamme erhitzen. Zwiebel, Knoblauch, Ingwer, Kreuzkümmel, Koriander, Muskat, schwarzen Pfeffer und Paprikapulver hineingeben. Unter Rühren 2 bis 3 Min. anschwitzen, bis Zwiebel und Knoblauch gebräunt sind.
  2. Möhren, Kartoffeln und Zucchini hinzufügen. Gut umrühren und 3 bis 5 Min. anbraten, bis das Gemüse gebräunt ist.
  3. Zitronensaft und 1/4 Tasse (60 ml) Weißwein oder Wasser einrühren. Halb abgedeckt unter häufigem Rühren 7 bis 10 Min. dünsten, bis das Gemüse weich ist. Vom Herd nehmen.
  4. Gemüsemischung in einen Mixer geben, Sojamilch zugießen und glatt pürieren. (Alternativ einen Stabmixer verwenden.)
  5. Pürierte Suppe zurück in den Topf gießen. Kurkuma und Hefeflocken (falls verwendet) einrühren und 2 bis 3 Min. köcheln lassen.
  6. Während die Suppe leicht weiter köchelt, nach und nach 2 bis 3 Tassen (480-720 ml) Gemüsebrühe einrühren. Flamme niedrig stellen und weitere 5 bis 10 Min. köcheln lassen, bis die gewünschte Konsistenz erreicht ist. Bei Bedarf etwas mehr Brühe oder Wasser unterrühren.
  7. Auf niedriger Flamme weiterköcheln und bis zur gewünschten Konsistenz reduzieren. Salz einrühren, abschmecken und bei Bedarf nachwürzen.
  8. Mit frischen gehackten Kräutern, Paprikapulver und schwarzem Pfeffer garnieren und mit Brot, Croutons oder Crackern servieren.


Vedisch: Knoblauch und Zwiebel mit 1/8 TL Asafoetida (Asant) and 1 TL schwarzen Senfsamen ersetzen. Kürbis: Statt Möhren und Zucchini gehackten Kürbis verwenden. Cremig mit Cashewkernen: Statt Soja- selbstgemachte Cashewmilch verwenden. Dafür 1 Tasse (240 ml) Wasser mit 2 bis 3 EL (am besten vorher 30 Min. eingeweichten) Cashewkernen pürieren.

The Lotus and the Artichoke - WORLD 2.0 Vegan Cookbook cover