Tender lamb pieces, swimming in a flavorful sauce made of white beans and tomatoes : this is marqat fasolia, a traditional Iraqi recipe. This generous and comforting dish is ideal during winter, to warm bodies and minds.
What is marqat fasolia?
Marqat fasolia is a stew made with white beans, tomatoes, and lamb, seasoned with cumin and pepper.
This traditional dish from Iraqi cuisine requires a long and slow simmer, around two hours, so as to let the beans (preferably dry) and lamb become tender.
Marqat fasolia is a nourishing and hearty meal, most often enjoyed during winter. It is usually served alongside white rice, as rice is a popular ingredient in Iraq.
Our recipe is made with lamb shoulder, a meat that goes very well with white beans. However, this dish is just as delicious with beef or mutton.
What is the origin of marqat fasolia?
Marqat fasolia has been a specialty from Iraq for many generations, but also from other regions in the Middle East. Lebanon, Iran, Syria and Jordan are also countries where it is common to share a nice plate of fasolia with friends or family.
Marqat fasolia literally means “bean stew”. It is also simply called fasolia, that can also be written fasoolya or fassoulia.
Meat stews, especially with lamb meat, are very common in Iraqi cuisine. For example, geema is a dish made with chickpeas in sauce, garnished with meat. Another example would be margat bamya, a tasty stew made with okra and lamb.
Which beans can be used in marqat fasolia?
Traditionally, the recipe for marqat fasolia is made with dry white beans, a legume found under many forms, depending on where in the world it is grown.
For example, tarbais, coco or even cannellini beans can be used to try different flavors and textures.
Rich in fibers and proteins, white beans are a very good source of vitamins. Always get them dry rather than in cans so as to benefit from their nutrients optimally. Soaking them is then necessary before cooking : no less than 12 hours, overnight.
Other recipes for fasolia can be found throughout the Middle East and around the Mediterranean, where red beans or even green beans are most often used.
The different types of bean stews throughout the world
Tomato and bean stews (with or without meat) are shared by many culinary cultures throughout the world.
In Lebanon, this dish is called yakhné fassoulia and is usually made with beef rather than with lamb. Fasolia bi zeit is the vegetarian variant.
In Turkey, they know it under the name or kuru fasulye, which is incidentally considered as the national dish of Turkey, and is almost always found alongside pilaf rice.
In Nigeria, the same ingredients found in marqat fasolia can be found in dounguouri soko, a local stew that also contains pepper and natron, a very salty mineral.
In Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, the very flavorful loubia is the dish closest to fasolia.
A little bit further away, but just as tasty, cassoulet is a French dish made with white beans simmered with all kinds of meats.
Finally, in Mediterranean countries, fasolia refers to a vegetarian soup made with white beans in tomatoes, sometimes with vegetables. In Greece, for example, fasolada is one of the favorite dishes for locals and is found on the menu of most restaurants.
This recipe is validated by our expert in Iraqi cuisine Nawal Nasrallah. An award-winning researcher and food writer, Nawal is the author of the definitive cookbook on the Iraqi cuisine Delights from the Garden of Eden.
- 14 oz. dry white beans (previously soaked)
- 1½ lb lamb shoulder cut into cubes
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 tomatoes , peeled, seeded and crushed
- 3 cups water
- 1 onion , chopped
- 2 tablespoons cumin
- 2 tablespoons black pepper
In a large pot, place the pre-soaked white beans and cover with cold water about 4 inches (10 cm) above the level of the beans.
- Cook covered over high heat for 1 hour. The beans are completely cooked when they are tender.
- In another pot, place the lamb meat, cover it with cold water and cook on medium heat for 45 minutes.
In a cast iron pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil and sauté the onion over low heat. Add the cooked and drained lamb, and brown for 3 to 4 minutes on all sides.
- Add 1 tablespoon salt, then add the cooked white beans and mix well.
- In a bowl, add the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, and water and mix well.
- Add this mixture to the pot of lamb and white beans and season with pepper.
- Add the cumin, mix well and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes or until sauce thickens, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Serve with basmati rice and a green salad.