As I mentioned last week, my mom was in town this month, and I wanted to make the most of the opportunity to learn how to make some of my favorite foods from growing up. (I’ve been trying to recreate some of the Lebanese and Mediterranean dishes I remember with simple recipes for every day.)
One of my favorite meals was always this hearty green pea stew, “Bazalla.” I think when people think of Lebanese or Middle Eastern food, they are likely to think of kababs (and hummus). But in reality, for family dinners in homes you’re more likely to find stew-type dishes, even one-pot meals. You’ll often have a vegetable-and-meat dish, sometimes with beans and grains, served over Lebanese rice. And a lot of them will have a similar tomato/onion sauce base.
I had a feeling this meal was simple and quick to make, but was definitely still surprised by how easy it is. The total cook time is about an hour, but once you’ve chopped the onions, there’s no real work to do. You can multitask while doing work (in my case writing) or other things around the stove while it cooks. This makes about 6 large servings, so unless you’re a big group there should be plenty of leftover for a couple of days.
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 large yellow sweet onions
- 1 pound stir-fry beef of your choice
- 3 packs of frozen green peas (12 oz each)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cups water
- Black pepper
- Ground allspice
- Ground cinnamon (or 1 cinnamon stick)
1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium high heat.
2. Add the onions and garlic to the oil. Season well with salt and pepper. Stir often, until golden brown, around 15 minutes.
3. Add the meat. Season well with salt, allspice and 1/4 tsp cinnamon. Stir frequently until the meat is browned, 3-4 minutes.
4. While the meat is cooking, combing the tomato paste with 1 cup of water. Whisk well. Add to the onions, garlic and beef, and bring to a boil. Then cover and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
5. Stir in the frozen peas and 1 cup water to the pot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. The cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it stand covered for five minutes.
Optional: Pour it over rice
I like it both on its own as a veggie and meat dish, or poured over rice, “Bazalla ou Rez” (which is how most of these types of dishes are served in Lebanon).
Lebanese rice has a special, delicious twist that’s really worth it:
- 2 cups white rice
- 1/3 box vermicelli
- 3 tbsp butter
1. Boil 4 cups of water. Remove from heat. Soak 2 cups white rice in the hot water for around 20-30 minutes. (You could do this while the recipe above is simmering).
2. Break up the vermicelli to 1-inch pieces by hand.
3. Once the rice is soaked and vermicelli is ready, melt 3 tbsp butter on medium-low heat in a large pot. Drain the rice and discard the water.
4. Add the vermicelli to the melted butter. Stir until evenly brown, about 3 minutes. Then add the soaked rice. Stir together for less than one minute.
5. Add 3 cups of water and 2 tsp salt. Bring to a boil on high heat.
6. Cover and simmer on low for 10 minutes, or until the water drains. Just before turning off the heat, stir well.
Enjoy! So good.