Middle Eastern Braised Lamb and “Fava” Beans


Middle Eastern Braised Lamb and “Fava” Beans 

Lamb and fava beans are both favorite ingredients in the Middle East, from Greece and Turkiye all the way to Egypt. Together lamb and favas make a richly flavored and delightful dish. 

I enjoy both ingredients, though fresh fava beans are hard to find, and I substitute the big “Fordhook” lima beans, which are available frozen at the supermarket. Fresh ground lamb is also sometimes hard to find. It’s readily available in Atlanta in places where the Muslim community shops, like Dekalb Farmers Market and Buford Highway Farmers Market and at Halal butcher shops. But it’s also at stores elsewhere, including here in Athens, GA, that carry good and especially local meats, and sometimes at the Athens Farmers Market. Lamb is a little pricy, but it’s very flavorful and you don’t need a lot. Ground beef chuck can substitute, though the flavor is not as rich. 

My version of this dish uses red wine in the cooking. Greeks, Israelis, and Christian Arabs can cook with wine, but it’s forbidden – haram -- for Muslims. Chicken broth can replace the wine.  

The traditional accompaniment for braised lamb is a rice dish, such as a pilaf. But simple boiled rice serves well too. (I have two rice pilaf recipes on this blog, a Turkish-style one posted on 8/24/19, and a more American-style one posted on 8/1/22.) 

The recipe serves six. A dollop of whole-milk yogurt, or sour cream, can be put on top of the lamb dish when eating. 

1 pound freshly ground lamb (or beef chuck)

1 medium onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup red wine

1 tomato, finely chopped (or 1 tablespoon ketchup)

3/4 cup water, plus more as needed

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more if needed

3/4 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 (12 ounce) package frozen large (“Fordhook”) lima beans 

In heavy pot, fry the ground meat with the minced onion and garlic until color has fully changed. Add wine, tomato or ketchup, water, salt, herbs and spices. Cover pot and cook over low-medium heat, stirring every few minutes, for 15 minutes. Add a little water if needed to keep a little liquid in the pot. 

Add the still-frozen lima beans. Stir, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if needed to keep from drying. The beans take about 20 minutes to cook until tender. 

Taste a bean for tenderness and salt. Add salt if needed. When beans are tender, remove from the heat. 

Serve with rice pilaf or plain boiled rice.

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