My Best Loubia Recipe ~ White Bean Soup 1437 A.H / 2015!
Every year as soon as the colder weather sets in my husband says, in more or less these exaggerated words “that’s it, we are eating loubia – beans soup, addass – lentil soup, any soup but only soup for the next 6 months”. The kids groan and I smile with glee because I remember he said the same thing last year! and who doesn’t love the hearty and healthy one-pot meal that is soup?!
I L.O.V.E. white bean soup, so much so I have 2-3 recipes already in the blog archives therefore, this is ‘my best’ Loubia recipe of the current year. I’m not saying there will be a new recipe next year, yet with me you never really know ….
Loubia also known under different names such as fasolya beeda or simply white beans in english are a food staple popular all over the maghreb region and are usually cooked in soups similar to today’s Algerianesque soup or by letting the sauce reduce further into a stew – think North African-spiced baked beans, yum.
You can easily make this soup vegetarian by omitting the meat and maybe adding in some of your favourite veggies instead. Most Northwest African Loubia recipes including this one, use red meat such as lamb or mutton to add a rich depth of flavour to the soup. I even used a combination of chicken and lamb earlier last week to use them up before they went bad. Yep like I said, we live on beans during the colder months and well I had to cook it again to iron-out a few issues I had such as the amount of tomato paste and then of course to take some better photos before I could post ‘MY best recipe’.
The main two differences to the soup this year:
- I cooked the soup using dried lubia / Cannellini beans – soaked overnight in cold water with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda, drained and washed thoroughly. For reasons why I chose to cook with dried beans, see The Teal Tadjine’s ~ How to rehydrate, cook and use dried beans. If you haven’t time / planned ahead for soaking dry beans then use 2 cans of cannellini beans, drained and add towards the end of cooking. You will not need as much water (approx 800ml- 1litre) if using canned beans and you will be able to cut the cooking time by half an hour – cook the lamb broth for about 50 minutes then add the beans and allow to cook for a further 10 minutes.
- Less variety of spices but still tons of flavour – Lots of cumin as is a must when cooking in this North African style, Ras el hanout (I used the green moroccan-blend by Alfez) and a little chilli flakes. Also when serving the soup we add some harissa to spice it up a little more, ALERT: runny nose from chilli pepper!
In our Anglo-Algerian home we prefer Loubia as a soup not stew but feel free to use 1/2 litre less water, adjust the seasoning / spicing to your preference and cook until the sauce thickens to your liking. Most of the beans will ‘melt’ which will help thicken the soup/stew too.
One essential cooking technique I also picked up from The Teal Tadjine, is not to add any salt or acidic ingredients such as tomato at the beginning of cooking the beans. Instead add them half-way through the cooking time, that way the beans won’t seize up and will cook faster. I did add the Ras El Hanout at the start of cooking as it only has a small amount of salt it doesn’t affect the cooking of the beans.
You know what’s great about this soup, It tastes better the day after you’ve made it. I cooked the soup on Thursday evening for dinner and served up the re-heated leftovers for an easy Friday lunch.
What’s your best recipe using beans?
- 250 grams dry cannellini beans
- big pinch of bicarbonate of soda
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 350 grams halal lamb neck pieces, on the bone
- 1 onion, finely chopped or grated
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1/2 tablespoon ras el hanout
- 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon red chilli flakes
- 1 stick of celery, washed, trimmed and snapped in half.
- 1 handful flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
- 1600 ml water
- 2 medium carrots, washed, peeled, cut into medium size rounds
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt (or to taste)
- 1 - 1 1/2 tablespoon tomato purée
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Lemon Juice or Vinegar
- Harissa paste or chilli paste/sauce of your choice
- In a large deep bowl add dry beans, pinch of bicarbonate of soda cover with cold water until it's 10cm above the beans. Leave to soak overnight, minimum 12 hours.
- In a large cooking pot with lid over medium heat add oil allow it to get hot then add the meat, allow it to brown on all sides before removing from the pot, set aside. In the same pot add onion, sauté until it's soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Whilst sautéing the onion if needed add a splash of water then with a wooden spoon scrape the meat residue from the bottom of the pot.
- Meanwhile drain your over-night soaked beans into a colander and wash thoroughly, set aside.
- Add the meat back into the pot along with the garlic, cumin, ras el hanout, black pepper, chilli flakes, parsley and celery. Sauté for another minute or two, stirring often. Add the beans and water. Increase heat until the soup begins to simmer, cover then reduce heat to low and allow soup to cook for 45 minutes.
- Now stir in the carrots, salt and tomato paste. Recover the pot and allow to cook for a further 35-45 minutes, in the last 15 minutes or so remove the celery and meat from the soup, take the meat of the bones and return meat to the soup.
- Serve warm with a squeeze of lemon juice, drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a dash of harissa, goes nice with a crusty baguette or all by itself!
*preparation time does not include soaking the dry beans over-night *see blog post for further details on how to make the soup in less time using canned beans or how to turn soup into stew for North African spiced 'baked' style beans.