Garbure… sounds good to me!

Looking through an old French recipe book I have, I came across a recipe for something called garbure. I’ve had this book for years, and read and used it many times, but I’d never noticed this before – it sounded such a strange name, I wondered if it was French – but of course it is, and when I looked it up I found it is a speciality from Gascony.

I’m sure every Gasconne grand-mère has a recipe for it, each with her own little touch and way of making it, but basically it is a soupy stew made from ham, or slat pork, or both and vegetables and sometimes beans. It is the sort of dish which might vary according to what is growing in the garden or available in the market; apparently,, although the recipe i have doesn’t include it, bread and cheese are traditionally added. There is another lovely tradition with it, the chabrot; when you have eaten all the meat and vegetables, and all that is left is delicious soupy-gravy, you pour half a glass of red wine into your bowl and finish it all off! I say yes to chabrot!

Before I share my old recipe, here are some comments I came across about it:

  • The key to the rich flavour is  smoked ham hock or a smoked pork shank. The soup-stew is so thick with beans, leeks, root vegetables, and cabbage that you can almost eat it with a fork.
  • There are many variations, depending on the season and vegetables available – and what part of South-West France you are in. They all have one thing in common, when you serve this rich thick soup, the ladle stands up in it on its own.
  • Loaded with root vegetables and sweet Savoy cabbage, this robust white bean soup  is enriched with smoky bacon and duck confit.
  •  the daily dish for Gascony peasants, it following the pace of the seasons; it was prepared early in the morning, and  cooked slowly during the whole day while they  worked outside. Everyday they added more vegetables or meat what was left.

As you can see, recipes vary in whether the meat should be smoked or unsmoked, and whether duck, confit or not, should be added and even whether beans should be included. It seems the general principle is something porky, something salty or smokey, whatever vegetables you like, beans if you like, and anything else at all!


  • 3 oz dried haricot beans, boiled for 2 mins then left to soak for 1 hour, drain and keep liquor
  • 1 lb lean salt pork – blanched then cooked for 1 hour in ¾ pint water, drained and dried
  • 1 optional ham bone
  • 1½ lbs cabbage, shredded (my family don’t like cabbage so I would miss it out)
  • 2 medium turnips cut in small pieces
  • 1 carrot sliced
  • 1½ onions thickly sliced
  • 1 thickly sliced leek
  • garlic to taste
  • bouquet garni
  • ½lb uncooked garlic sausage, pricked
  • 3 potatoes cut in chunks
  • seasoning to taste
  • croûtes – enough slices of French bread for everyone to have two (or more if you like) toasted in a low oven for 15 mins, brush each side with olive oil and toast for another fifteen minutes – rub with garlic. You can also sprinkle with cheese and let it melt in the oven for a couple more minutes if you want
  1. make up bean liquor to 2½ pints with water
  2. in a big enough pan put water and everything except the sausage and potatoes
  3. bring to the boil and simmer, for an hour – or as long as you want, checking from time to time that there is enough liquid
  4. 45 mins before you want to serve, add the sausage and potatoes
  5. take out the ham bone and bouquet garni and check for seasoning
  6. my recipe says serve the meat separately and the soup poured over a croûte in bowls, I think it would be nicer altogether and to float the croûtes on top
  7. don’t forget the chabrot!

Next time the family are home I might try this!

I am sure a Nottingham jar would be just the sort of thing to use to cook it!


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