It’s summer, at least it’s supposed to be. In Melbourne, we never really know. Our fickle weather sees us reaching for the sunscreen one minute, and the umbrella a few breaths later. Today’s cool breeze felt more October than December, and even warranted a light scarf on my walk to the store.
What better a time, then, to embrace the soups and stews we put on hold during the hotter months? This fasoulia nashfe is one of my favorite family recipes, and one that has traveled with me to four continents: tender lamb, soft cannellini beans and a rich tomato sauce seasoned in the signature Arab way, with plenty of cinnamon, garlic and baharat.
It’s also one of the first Middle Eastern dishes I prepared for the Australian Man. He loved it, which made me love it just that much more.
This recipe uses one of my favorite kitchen appliances: the pressure cooker. It was a staple in our house growing up, and I’ve made it a point to have one in every kitchen I’ve been in since. Pressure cooking allows you to turn tough, lean cuts of meat (like lamb shanks) into melting, fork-tender morsels in a fraction of the time. The options are endless – you can steam fish and vegetables in it, make rich curries, poach fruit, make jams, and make hearty stews like this one.
If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can make fasoulia nashfe as you would any other rich stew: low and slow, with love.
FASOULIA NASHFE: LAMB AND WHITE BEAN STEW
500g / 1lb lean lamb, cubed for stew (or lean beef)
1 420g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 tomatoes, diced
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 tbsp baharat (Arabic 7-spice, alternatively use allspice)
1 tsp cinnamon
Salt and pepper, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
In the pressure cooker:
Heat pressure cooker over medium-high. Drizzle just enough olive oil to lightly coat the pan, add the onions and garlic, and saute 30 seconds. Stir in the meat, then add the baharat and cinnamon, tossing to coat. Stir in the tomatoes and bring to a light simmer.
Place the lid on the cooker and seal to bring the pot to pressure. Once pressure is reached (when the cooker hisses, rattles, etc), turn the heat down to low (as low as you can go while still maintaining pressure sound) and cook for 15 minutes.
Remove from heat, and either wait for pressure to release naturally, or use the quick release method. Stir in the white beans, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes to thicken the sauce and let flavors combine.
Optional: Serve over bulgur and garnish with yogurt.
In a regular pot:
Heat a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Coat the pan with olive oil, and add the onions and garlic, simmering 2-3 minutes until just tender. Add the lamb (or beef), and sear on all sides until browned. Stir in the spices and the tomatoes, and bring to a simmer. Simmer on low heat for 2 hours or until meat is fork tender and the sauce is thickened. Add the beans, season with salt and pepper, and simmer another 5 minutes until flavors combine.