A standard purchase from our local Hornsby Growers Market is a bag of green beans. Sometimes they are added to a curry, sometimes they are blanched and tossed together with fennel and orange to make a vibrant salad. Sometimes I will just stare at them for hours at a time, pondering the true beauty of their verdant, glossy, bean-like attributes. But mostly likely, they will end up in this dish.
I like to fancy that I am a teeny part Lebanese, not through blood but through osmosis. A dear friend (who’s hubby is of Lebanese origin) gave me Abla Amad’s cookbook, ‘The Lebanese Kitchen’ about 12 years years ago. Abla started her restaurant in 1979. It soon became a Melbourne dining institution and is still serving simple, traditional style Lebanese food today. Having never eaten there, it is definitely on my list of things to do. Anyhoo, it has been a pleasure to trawl through this book and experiment with the variety of tasty dishes that grace the pages.
My next Middle Eastern connection was making friends with yet another amazing chick through mothers group. Our sons were born around the same time and she is also of Lebanese heritage. The tip of caramelising the onions for this dish came from her mum. (Just saying, but this good friend has yet to cook me a Lebanese feast…..I am still waiting.)
The Yak and myself love this dish served with baked or roasted potatoes and veggie burgers. It’s equally good with kafta (lamb mince patties), grilled chicken or haloumi. Other great pairings include quinoa dishes, stuffed eggplants or capsciums and flatbreads. It is equally yummy served hot, cold or warm.
Mopping up the velvety sauce at the end with whatever carbohydrate you fancy is the best bit.
Green beans in olive oil (Loubyeh bi Zayt)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
500g green beans, top and tailed and cut into 2cm length
1 1/2 tsps ground allspice
1 tin (400g) diced tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
HOW YOU DO IT
Heat oil in a saucepan, add onion and sauté the onions until they are a dark golden brown. Cook over medium heat, this takes about 10-15 minutes.
Add beans and stir, then add allspice and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Add tomato, salt and pepper.
Replace lid and cook for 30 minutes over low heat, cooking until beans are tender. (I usually take the lid off for the last 10 minutes). I taste for seasoning about half way through, you may need a touch more salt.
You can make this dish without tomatoes but I never have. I love allspice but if you are unsure, try 1 teaspoon to start with. Seriously folks, take the time to caramelise the onions. It adds a depth of flavour that was missing when I used to sauté the onions lightly.
Adapted from The Lebanese Kitchen by Abla Amad