بِسْــــــــــــــــــــــمِ اﷲِارَّحْمَنِ ارَّحِيم
السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته
Well, it's been abnormally warm for February here in Algeria, buuuuut the weather report says it will rain heavily last in the next few days. And for those sadly and literally stuck in Snowmageddon it's time to break out the large stock pot or slow cooker. And make some bone warming dishes for our loved ones come home to. Loubia b'lham is one such Algerian dish. You would remember this dish Loubia b'dersa a few years back. Today, we'll be revisiting this traditional Algerian dish with white beans .... but this another even more flavorsome version with meat.
Loubia b'lham, also called Tadjine d'haricot blanc, Tadjine Loubia, Loubia Algérienne, Loubia en sauce, cassoulet Algérienne or amicably just known as "Loubia". It's a slow-cooked Algerian specialty dish with white beans and lamb. Loubia b'lham could be considered the Algerian version of the French cassoulet. The stew gets its flavor from dersa, a paste made from blend of ground dried spicy red chilies and fresh red peppers. Dersa is similar to harissa, a spicy red pepper paste but isn't flavored with garlic, olive oil or any spices. But it has a deep rich earthy texture and taste. It's predominantly used in the eastern Algeria and in such dishes as Chtit'ha and eastern Algerian style couscous. You can easily make your own dersa by simply blanching a ripe red bell pepper to remove the skin, than pureeing the pepper and season by adding salt, little bit of olive oil. Or even simplier take a 1 whole jarred (roasted red pepper) and puree.
Traditionally, this stew is served in a cassole with a splash of olive vinegar and drizzling of local extra virgin olive oil is added at the table to counter balance the richness of this dish. And of course tons of bread. This dish is simple, economical and easily made with everyday pantry ingredients. It is especially good for cold winter days and easy enough to leave it simmering unattended on the stove top.
Today, I am presenting the method I learned from my late mother-n-law (Allah yarhama) using the favored flavoring of the north around Algiers lamb, carrots and fresh thyme. It uses a very modest of meat, only there for flavoring the dish so it's quite economical. I often just use bones in this dish. Other regions, have slight variations on this dish using chicken, beef, merguez, sheep feet or even khilli, which is an algerian preserved meat (kinda like jerky). You can easily subsitute lamb for beef here if you like. Even using wild game or bison would be killer in this dish I think!
Some cooks prefer to use fresh grated tomatoes in their Loubia, but hey fresh, ripe and flavorful tomatoes aren't available all year, especially when you want to cook this (winter) dish so for me it's just easier to use tomato paste. Cooks in the western part of Algeria would normally add Ras el Hanout spice mix to this dish, instead of the dersa. I tried it before, but totally thought is was better with dersa. Beans are cheap so do some experimenting in your kitchen with it. I would say using dry beans is best for many reasons, including the taste, nutritional value and cost. If you need some tips on using dry beans and ditching those cans just take a look at this post.
Traditionally, this is slow cooked in a Cassole or a Tangia, both Earthen pots used for slow cooking but let's face it most people don't have these laying around in their kitchen. I know I don't! I usually cook this dish in a Dutch oven on the stovetop, but you could easily make this dish in any Earthen pot, cast iron casserole, slow cooker or pressure cooker. Tips can be found here for cooking beans in a slow cooker or pressure cooker.
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