I feel like every home has some dishes that signal the approach of winter. At my house, it isn't winter until we've made traditional Middle Eastern stews, like Fasooliya, Bamiyeh, and Zahra bi Laban. This stew with Fasooliya Bayda, or cannellini beans, is definitely a winter staple in our home and has been my daughters' favourite since they were babies!
Versions of this stew are made across the Middle East, with the Levant calling it Fasooliya Bayda and Fasooliya Yabsa in Iraq. It is also very popular in Turkey. We generally have the ingredients on hand and it can easily be made vegetarian by leaving out the meat, as cannellini beans are a great source of protein and fibre. This dish will not only warm you on the inside, it will keep you full for a long time.
This stew is really easy to make, but it is important to use dried white beans when making this stew, as I find the canned ones get mushy and disintegrate in the sauce. I like to soak and boil my beans in large batches and then freeze them to make my life easier and have them ready whenever I need them. You could also make the meat ahead of time to help this dish come together super-fast for a delicious and hearty weeknight dinner. As for the rice, I like to use medium or short grain rice, because I feel like it absorbs the liquid from the stew nicely, but feel free to use your favourite.
I prefer to serve this is with an extra squeeze of lemon and a side of Shatta, or Middle Eastern chilli paste, for that extra kick! Try it out and add a delicious and comforting stew to your winter rotation!
500g bone-in or boneless meat chunks (beef or lamb)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, quartered
1 cinnamon stick
8 cardamom pods
10 black peppercorns
Water, enough to cover the meat
2 cups dry white beans, soaked overnight and boiled until soft
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tsp mashed garlic
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp mixed spice
2 tsp ground coriander
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
1½- 2 cups reserved meat broth
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp mashed garlic
½ cup coriander, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp oil
¾ cup vermicelli
2 cups rice
4 cups water (or according to packaging)
- Start by cooking the meat. In a large pot, heat the olive oil and brown the meat until it is a nice mahogany colour. Add in the spices, onion and garlic and then top off with enough water to reach a few inches over the meat.
- Once the water comes to the boil, you will notice the impurities rising to the top. Make sure you skim all of this off. Let the water come to the boil two or three times, until no more white foam is produced, then lower the heat, cover and let simmer for 1-2 hours, depending on how big the pieces of meat are. Check regularly and add water often, making sure the water always covers the meat.
- Once the meat is cooked, place in a sieve, making sure to reserve the meat broth. Set aside.
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion. Sauté until soft then add the mashed garlic. Cook for a minute, then add the passata, spices, lemon juice, cooked meat, cooked beans and the meat broth. Add enough broth to make it slightly thinner than you'd like because it will continue to thicken as it cooks.
- Let the stew cook on low heat for about 20 minutes or until the flavours have combined. Check the seasoning and adjust to your liking.
- While the stew cooks, make the rice. In a pot, heat the oil and brown the vermicelli. Once it begins to brown, add in the rice. Continue to stir, making sure the grains of rice are coated in oil. Add some salt and the water. My rice ratio is 1 cup rice to 2 cups water, but make sure to check the instructions on your rice packet. Once the water comes to a boil, lower the heat to the lowest setting and cover. Leave to cook, checking it just once. Once all the water has evaporated and the rice is cooked, turn off the heat. Fluff with a fork before serving.
- Once the stew is cooked, make the garnish. In a small pan, heat the oil, garlic and coriander. Once the garlic is fragrant and begins to brown, pour it directly into the stew pot. You can ladle in some of the stew into the pan to get any residual garnish.
- Serve the stew over the rice and enjoy! I like to eat this with an extra squeeze of lemon and Shatta (chilli paste) or hot sauce for an extra kick!
Add some dessert to your meal with Muhalabiya with figs!