Syrian Fasoulia

A bowl of fasoulia with rice

First off, this is probably the least “authentic” version of a regional fasoulia recipe I’ve done yet. I’m not even sure I should be calling it Syrian, but I don’t have a better name, and that is the country I was researching to come up with this recipe, so I’ll let it stand. I’ll get to why in a minute.

So, in my last post I talked about how Sudan has been a war torn, famine ridden country for decades, so their fasoulia was about as simple as it gets. I don’t think I said it in the blog post, but in a couple of my social media posts about it I said that it seemed like it stripped away all the extras, to get to the basics of what fasoulia is. (By the way, please follow me on Facebook or Twitter)

I take it back. The vast majority of the recipes I looked at for this post had beans, meat, tomato paste, water, salt and pepper. Maybe an onion or some garlic. Generally salt and pepper were the only spices listed. I guess it makes sense- Syria is currently a war torn country, while Sudan is maybe a little more stable right now than it was a decade ago, so luxuries like spices are perhaps a little more available.

Anyway, I looked at that super basic recipe and thought “that looks pretty boring”, and I may have let a few ingredients that only showed up in one or two of my source recipes sneak in as main ingredients. Specifically, the fresh tomato, the cilantro and the baharat probably should have been ignored. While it may not be authentically Syrian anymore, it does taste great.

My last several posts have involved translating my search terms into Arabic, and then translating the results back to English. Except this time the majority of my Arabic results were YouTube videos. For the most part when I’ve run into this in the past there were either english translations in the video, or a recipe listed in the notes for the video that I could translate, but not so much this time. For the most part I can piece together what ingredients they are using, but not always how much. Videos probably do influence what cooking methods I use more than written recipes, just because seeing someone put the onion in at one step versus another is likely to stick in my head more than reading about it.

Of course, even when I do have a written recipe to translate it doesn’t always work out perfectly. Usually even if the ingredients list is unclear, the instructions will have enough context to get a correct translation. But sometimes I’m just left scratching my head. An example from my last post was an ingredient that my translation app read as “large hanging, a coused zebra”. I still have no idea what a coused zebra is supposed to be, or how much a large hanging is (although if I knew what the ingredient was I could perhaps figure out the quantity). Luckily it only showed up in one recipe, so ignoring it probably didn’t effect my recipe at all.

I have one more war torn middle eastern country on my list, probably coming in just a few days, unless I run into some weird ingredients I have to order, and then we’ll move on to something else.

Syrian Fasoulia

Serves: 6-8
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: ~1:30
Total: 2:00 plus soaking time.

1 lb. great northern beans
1 lb. lima beans

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons fat of choice
1 lb. lamb, diced
1 lb. beef stew meat
1 Tablespoon salt
1 pinch black pepper
5 cups water

1 ½ Tablespoons vegetable oil, olive oil or fat
1 ½ large onions, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
6 medium tomatoes, diced
6 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons baharat (Arabic 7 spice)
3-4 cubes chicken bouillon

1 cup cilantro, chopped

Seasoned salt, to taste
2 beef bouillon cubes, in place of chicken
⅓ lb. veal, diced, in place of lamb or beef 
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cinnamon stick, with the meat
1 Tablespoon salt, while soaking beans
4-5 whole cloves, with the meat

Pick over your beans and remove any bad beans or foreign objects. Rinse, drain, and cover with cold water. Leave to soak overnight. 

Drain the beans, place in a pot and add water to cover by about an inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes or so, until beans are soft. Drain, and set aside, reserving the cooking water. 

Meanwhile, heat 2 Tablespoons of oil or fat in a heavy pot. Add the meat, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is browned on all sides. Add 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until meat is tender. 

Heat 1 ½ Tablespoons of oil in a skillet. Add the onion and sauté until it turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute, then add the tomatoes and and cook, stirring, until they soften and begin to break down. Add the tomato paste and baharat and mix well, adding a little water if needed to dissolve the tomato paste. Add the tomato mixture to the pot with the meat, along with the bouillon cubes and the beans. Add some of the bean cooking broth if needed to reach desired consistency. Simmer for 10 -15 minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly. 

Stir in the cilantro, taste for seasoning, and serve with rice. 

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