Sudanese Fasoulia

A plate of fasoulia with lamb and rice

Here we are again. I know it’s been a few weeks, but this exploration of fasoulia is going faster than the feijoada trip went. I think there will only be two more posts in this series after this one, before we move on to something else. Even when I’ve taken breaks so I don’t get sick of eating basically the same dish over and over, I can plow through a lot more recipes when I’m not trying to track down obscure regional sausages and spices, so even though I posted similar numbers of recipes in each series, feijoada took the better part of a year, and this one should be done in under four months. All because the ingredients are simple and mostly easily available.

Sudan is, of course, a country in Africa, just south of Egypt. To greatly abbreviate, while the history of the area goes back to the Pharos, modern Sudan and its borders date back to the early 19th century, when Egypt conquered it (again). In the 1880s Great Britain occupied Egypt, and therefor Sudan, leading to a half century or more of British influence or rule. (As I read it, Egypt was technically the ruler of the area, but was more or less a puppet of Great Britain during this time). After the Egyptian Revolution in 1952 forced Britain out, Sudan became its own independent country in 1956. In 1969  Jaafar Nimeiry’s regime began Islamic rule, which eventually led to civil war between the Islamic north, and the largely Christian population in the south, until South Sudan became an independent country in 2011.

Even without that brief history lesson, the word Sudan probably brings to mind images of starving children. Between its own internal turmoil, international sanctions and isolation, and probably some drought and other less directly human caused factors, 35% of the population of Sudan lives in poverty, and South Sudan is listed last on the Human Development Index.

What’s all that have to do with fasoulia? My point is that in some of the poorest countries in the world, food tends to be pretty simple, as this dish is. Well, that and I’m running out of things to say about a dish that doesn’t really vary much from country to country.

The biggest difference I noticed between this version and previous ones is that here the beans are fully cooked on there own and then added to the other ingredients for just the last few minutes of cooking, as opposed to stewing everything together for most of the cooking time.

Adding some cooking oil to the bean water was a new twist to me, that I’m a little unclear on the purpose of. I’ve done that when using a pressure cooker with certain beans that tend to boil up and leave skins that clog the valves, but for cooking in a regular pot I don’t quite get the point. I certainly didn’t notice any difference in the flavor or texture of the beans.

Most of the recipes just called for “meat”, which probably also reflects on a country in deep poverty, where meat is likely not everyday fare. I used some small bone-in lamb chops I found at the grocery store, but feel free to use whatever you like.

The use of stock powder or bouillon cubes as a “spice” is something I see a lot in poorer counties, especially recipes from Africa. I’m not sure if Knorr’s “vegetable recipe mix” is exactly what the vegetable stock powder that would be available in Sudan is, but it was what I could find here, and worked with the other flavors in the dish.

Sudanese Fasoulia

Serves: 4-6
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook ~1:45
Total: ~1:55 plus soaking time.

2 cups great northern beans
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

2 ½ Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large onions, sliced
1 large tomato, diced
1 lb. bone in lamb (or other meat of choice)
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
¾ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ cups water

2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 ¾ Tablespoons tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 teaspoons vegetable stock powder
1 cube chicken bouillon
2 small green chili peppers, whole

2 cups barlotti beans, in place of great northern
1 ½ cinnamon sticks
1 pinch of baking soda, with the beans
Baharat (Arabic 7 spice), to taste
2 Tablespoons margarine

Pick over your beans and remove any bad beans or foreign objects. Rinse, drain and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for at least 5 hours.

Drain your beans and place them in a pot with 1 Tablespoon of oil and enough water to cover by about an inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, for about 45 minutes, until the beans are soft. 

Meanwhile, heat 2 ½ Tablespoons of oil in a large pan, and sauté the onion until it begins to soften. Add the tomato and sauté for about 5 minutes, until it also begins to soften. Add the lamb, salt and pepper, and continue to cook, stirring frequently until the lamb is browned on all sides and the onion begins to break down, 15-20 minues. Add 1 ½ cups of water, bring to a boil, reduce and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. 

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked beans to the pot with the meat, along with enough of their cooking liquid to reach desired consistency. Add the coriander, cumin, tomato paste, garlic, stock powder, and whole chilies. Taste and add salt if needed. Continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes, until flavors come together. 

Serve with rice, bread, pita or injira.

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