Ok, now we really are getting into “isn’t this the same dish you just posted five days ago?” territory. On one level the answer is probably yes. It’s green beans, beef, tomato and spices. But on another level (the one I’m working on here), tweaking the spices a little bit changes the flavor a little bit, and that’s what I’m exploring here, the subtitles of flavor.
I had to dig deep to find recipes for this post. I only found two recipes with any indication they were tied to Saudi Arabia when I searched in English- and they weren’t even full recipes, just lists of ingredients on a site that catalogs the ingredients in recipes from cookbooks, but tells you to go find the cookbook if you want instructions. (What the purpose of such a website is, I’m not really clear on. It seems like “how far can we go towards putting all these awesome cookbooks online without actually breaking copyrite,” and trying to then get people to go support those same cookbook authors, all while being useful to no one. I mean, apparently there’s a market for it because it seems to be populated by users entering cookbooks from their own collections, but… why?)
I digress. The point is, I had to go back to my trick of translating my search terms into Arabic, and then translating the resulting sites back into English to get enough usable results to do anything with. And enough results I got! I actually had over 20 recipes in my spread sheet when I called it quits (normally I try to work with 10-12). All my results wound up being from the website CookPad.com, which is one of the many massive user generated recipe websites out there, (similar to say, Allrecipes.com), which seems to be a popular option in the Middle East, There were also at least as many recipes for fasoulia with dry beans, but the first page of results I looked at were green bean based, and I figured I’d stick with that version instead of trying to make two different recipes.
One thing I’ve forgotten to mention over the last several posts about green bean based fassoulia is that you can use frozen beans if you wish. I did use fresh again this time, but with the long cooking time your beans are going to be super soft anyway, so it won’t really make a difference. In retrospect, I still have several pounds of home grown green beans in my freezer from two summers ago that i should have used instead of paying for out of season fresh ones. If I wind up with any more green bean based fasoulia recipes before I end this little journey I’ll have to keep that in mind.
There were a couple of interesting variations that came up with this recipe. First off, recipes that called specifically for chicken had about as many entries on my list as those calling for “meat”, which could be beef or lamb (or I suppose camel would also be an option in Saudi Arabia). I used beef this time.
The second oddity was that a number of recipes called for soaking the meat with some vinegar for a few minutes. I’m not sure if this is supposed to tenderize the meat a little bit, or if it’s more intended to “clean” the meat. I’m usually firmly in the don’t wash your meat camp (it won’t remove pathogens from your meat, but will spread them into your sink and wherever else you splash or drip while doing it), but since I wasn’t entirely clear on the purpose of the soak I went ahead and did it. I think it was mostly the chicken recipes that called for this step, but I figured that it probably wouldn’t hurt with other meats as well. While I don’t know if it’s really because of the vinegar, my meat was done cooking a good 30 minutes earlier than I was expecting.
The flavors in this version seemed a little more “Indian” to me- probably due to the turmeric and cumin.
Baharat, or seven spice, is a spice blend found throughout the Arab world. While I could have made my own, and probably written a whole series of posts about how the blend varies from country to country (or even spice vendor to spice vendor) , I just used the same blend I bought* for the Libyan Fasoulia recipe a couple posts back.
The final different approach that I adapted to my recipe was adding water a little at a time during the cooking process rather than all at once in the beginning. This does two things; first, it means your are braising your meat and beans rather than boiling them, so the texture and flavor will turn out a little different, and secondly, you have more control over the consistency of the sauce. Honestly, I probably put too much water in to begin with, since I then only had to add water once near the end of the cooking time, so I don’t know if I really gave this technique a fair trial.
It’ll probably be a little while before my next post. I have a few other cooking projects lined up that don’t fit into the framework here. Hopefully it won’t be another month this time, but it will me more than 4 or 5 days.
If you try this, any of my recipes, I’d love to hear what you think. Leave a comment here or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.
Prep: 40 Minutes
Cook: 1-2 hours
12 oz. stew meat
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed.
1-2 Tablespoons vinegar
1 lb. green beans
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon cumin
¾ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ teaspoon baharat (7 spice)
¾ teaspoon turmeric
1 cube chicken boullion
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 ¾ Tablespoons minced cilantro
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ Tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 lb. bone in lamb meat
1 ¾ teaspoons ground coriander
Soak your meat in water with a tablespoon or two of vinegar for 15 minutes.
Trim your green beans and snap to desired length.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and sauté until it softens, then add the garlic and sauté for another minute.
Drain the meat and pat it dry, then add it to the pot with the onion and fry until brown on all sides. Add the green beans and cook for 5-10 minutes, until they just begin to soften.
Add the tomato, spices, boullion cube and tomato paste, along with a small glass of water. Mix well, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for 1-2 hours, checking every 10-15 minutes and adding another glass of water whenever the liquid has nearly evaporated, until the meat is tender.
Check for seasoning and serve with rice or pita bread.
*I receive no compensation for mentioning this product.