"The smell of Fanesca, Ecuador's number one Easter dish continued to pervade all households and to many of our friends."
• Jules Verne
Fanesca is a very traditional soup from Ecuador and is a special soup or stew because it is only prepared once a year during Easter and Lent. The exact ingredients vary from one region or family to another, but one of the consistent factors is the variety of different grains, some of which unique to the Andean highlands.
2lbsbacalao seco or dried salt cod
6cupsof diced sambo or fresh squashzucchini, about 2 ½ lbs
6cupsof diced zapallo or squashabout a small sized squash butternut squash or a large kabocha squash
2cupsof shredded cabbage
4cupsof cooked and peeled fava beans
4cupsof cooked corn kernels
3cupsof cooked green peas
2cupsof cooked lima beans
2cupsof cooked alubias or cannellini beans
2cupsof chochos or lupini beanspeeled
2cupsof rice (cooked)- cooked in abundant water and very tender
1tspof achiote or annatto powder
1cupof diced white onion
1cupof diced red onion
1tbsof ground cumin
1tbsof dry oregano
1tspof ground pepper
2cupsof roasted peanuts
10-12cupsof milkyou can also use less milk and replace it with the broth where the veggies were cooked for a lighter version
1cupof heavy cream
8-12ozof cream cheeseadjust to taste
1cupof crumbled queso frescocan use feta cheese as a replacement
Salt to taste
½bunch of cilantro or parsleyfinely chopped, about 6 tablespoons
Soak the salt cod in water for 24 hours (or even up to 48 hours if you want a very mild salt cod flavor), changing the water every 6-8 hours. Each time the water should be less and less salty, at the end cut the cod into medium sized pieces (if it doesn’t come already cut).
Cook the diced butternut squash (or kabocha) and fresh squash/zucchini separately, with a just enough water to cover them, cook until they are very tender. Save the water from cooking the squash and other veggies if you would like to use it (in place or in addition to the milk in the recipe)
Boil the shredded cabbage with a small amount of water for about 3 minutes.
In a food processor or blender, add the cooked squashes, the cooked rice, and the cooked cabbage. Blend until you have a thick puree, you can add some of veggie broth or water from cooking them, if it’s very thick.
In a sauce pan, bring 6 cups of milk to boil, add the pieces of soaked and desalted cod, and cook on a low/medium boil for about 8-10 minutes.
Blend the roasted peanuts with 2 cups of milk, save until ready to add to the soup.
To begin cooking the soup, in a large stock pot or soup pot, heat the butter over medium heat to make a refrito or base for the soup. Add the onions, garlic, achiote, cumin, oregano and pepper and cook until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the squash, rice and cabbage puree and mix well.
Add 2 to 4 cups of milk and mix well.
Add the fava beans, corn, green peas, lima beans and cannellini beans (and any of the other optional ingredients: cooked lentils, garbanzos, mellocos, etc)
Mix well and let simmer for about 15 minutes, stir frequently to avoid the ingredients from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Add the milk where you cooked the cod to soup. You can also add all the cod, lightly shredded (for a full flavor cod fanesca) or just a small amount for a more mild fanesca. If just adding a little bit of the cod, save the rest for later, then sauté it and serve a little with each bowl of soup.
At this point you want to taste the soup and add salt if needed, how much you need will depend on the whether you add the salt cod to the soup or not (as well as how well you soaked and rinsed the cod). Keep in mind that you will be adding queso fresco (or feta) at the end so don’t oversalt the soup.
Add the blended milk and peanut mix to the fanesca soup, cook for another 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
About 5 to 10 minutes before serving, add the chochos or lupini beans, the cream and the cheeses, stir to help the cheeses dissolve.
Add the chopped cilantro or parsley and stir well. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed.
Serve the fanesca with the shredded or small pieces of fried salt cod (unless they were already added to the soup), hardboiled egg slices, lime marinated white onions,fried ripe plantains, slices of queso fresco,fried cheese empanadas, avocado slices or cubes, and Ecuadorian hot sauce or slices of hot peppers. These can be added on top of the soup or on the side.