Recipe: 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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