Fasoolia – Green beans with tomato sauce & lamb

This is a very simple and traditional Palestinian stew made with green beans, fresh tomatoes, with or without lamb. It is proper home cooking and each time I prepare it, it always makes me think of my Tata’s kitchen in Jerusalem.

Fasoolia means beans and throughout the Middle East, the beans in this dish vary as do the other components of the the dish itself.

This is also popular as a mezze minus the lamb, served at room temperature, drizzled with olive oil and with plenty of fresh pitta bread to scoop with. If you want to do this, add the ingredients in the following order – garlic, onion, cinnamon, all spice, beans, tomatoes. It only needs to cook for 45 minutes to an hour. You might want to add a pinch of paprika or chilli, for some extra kick. A tablespoon of pomegranate molasses or an Iranian dried lime would also be interesting additions.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Green beans- runner beans or French beans 500 / 600 g chopped in to pieces (french beans, half or third them, runner beans chop into bite size squares).
Half a kilo of boneless neck, leg or shoulder of lamb chopped into medium chunks.
Tomatoes; 5/6 fresh tomatoes or 2 cans of good quality plum tomatoes
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 white onion finely chopped
1 bay leaf
3 tsp all spice
1/2 tsp cinammon
4 tsp of salt
Olive oil

Chop the lamb in to decent sized chunks (this is not an elegant dish!) Sometimes I have more bite size chunks and sometimes hunks. It cooks faster with small pieces, something to bear in mind if you would like to keep the cooking time to around 2 hours.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large casserole dish on the hob and add the whole garlic to the oil. After a few minutes start to brown the meat. Add the bay leaf, cinnamon and all spice. Once the lamb is browned, add enough water to almost cover the meat. Now bring it to the boil and then turn it down and simmer for approximately one hour with the lid on the pot. This will look a bit frothy. Keep an eye on it and skim the fat off the top as required / add more water.

If you are using fresh tomatoes and don’t have a peeler that can cope with tomato skin, put them in a big bowl, boil the kettle and pour the water over them until completely covered. Let them soak for 5 minutes and then remove them one by one and peel off the skin. Get rid of the seeds (bitter) and core and chop them roughly. If you are using canned tomatoes open the cans.

In a large frying pan, add a good glug of olive oil and fry the finely chopped onion and then add the green beans.
After the hour is up, place the beans and onions into the lamb / broth and combine. add the tomatoes and then bring to the boil before turning it down to simmer for at least one more hour, with the lid on the casserole
.
The beans should be on the softer side, not al dente! This does go against all my instincts regarding green vegetable consumption but it just doesn’t taste right with crunchy beans.

You should have a light yet rich sauce by this point. If it is too thick add water and if too thin, simmer with the lid off so that some of the water can evaporate. You need a decent amount of sauce to soak through the rice. Season with salt according to your taste. Check the lamb is tender and if so, it is done.

Serve with rice or bread (or both) and tahini salad

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