Libyan beef, bean and cumin stew


This hearty winter dish — Lubia bel kammun — is a classic. Do use dried beans soaked in water overnight, so the beans slow-cook with the beef and the flavour of the two, together with the cumin and spices marry perfectly. The flavour develops and it tastes even better the next day.

Serves: 4-6
Preparation: 10-15 minutes plus overnight soaking of beans
Cooking: 4 hours

250g dried white cannellini beans
300g marrow bones, fresh or frozen
Approx. 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp sweet paprika
1-2 tsp harissa, according to taste
2 tsp ground cardamom
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1.2 kg cubed chuck beef
140g tomato purée
Salt and pepper


Soak the beans in cold water overnight or for at least 12 hours.

Put the marrow bones in a large saucepan filled with 1.2 litres of cold water.

Add a tablespoon of salt, cover, bring to the boil and skim off any foam. Once it boils reduce the heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, skimming off any more foam as necessary.

Turn off the heat leaving the bones in the water.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large heavy base saucepan and add the onion. Cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes and then add the cumin, sweet paprika, harissa, cardamom, a teaspoon each of salt and ground black pepper.

Cook for 10 minutes over low heat, then add the garlic, cook for another couple of minutes and add the beef.

Sear the beef over medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes then add the drained beans. Stir well and after a few minutes add the tomato purée. Stir and cover.

After 10 minutes, add the marrow bones together with a couple of ladles of its cooking liquid — or stock.

Cook on low heat, almost completely covered and stirring occasionally, for about 3 hours or until the beef is tender. Add the remaining stock half way through the cooking to keep the beef moist and for the beans to cook thoroughly.

Serve with couscous or rice.

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