A Ramadan spent in quarantine.
I know I’m not alone in marveling at just how peculiar of a notion that is, but it is after all our reality, given the current circumstances.
I won’t lie, at first the idea of doing Ramadan totally solo this year (sans family, friends or co-workers) was incredibly daunting. Personally speaking, fasting is pretty taxing on my body and therefore always a challenge. So without that sense of solidarity I wasn’t really sure if I could hack a whole month of fasting.
But when I thought about it, the idea of going without and simply disregarding what has unequivocally always been one of my favourite times of year without even trying to fast didn’t feel right either. So, in the spirit of quarantine conditions, I’ve decided to take it one day at a time, and re-evaluate if fasting is the best decision for my mental and physical health. I may not be able to observe this month the way I usually would – but I have every intention to celebrate Ramadan to the best of my (solitary) ability.
And what better way to celebrate, than through the recreation of my all-time favourite Egyptian dishes?
Enter, Fasolia w Roz – otherwise known as Egyptian green beans stew.
My mother’s cooking is something I’ve boasted about on this blog often. I know, I know, everyone’s mom makes the best food – but seriously, my mother is a culinary maven like no other. She whips up a stew like this one with such ease (almost as if she could do it with her eyes closed) – and it tastes impeccable every time. Never bland, never boring, and always incredibly satisfying.
This particular stew is one of the top five things I ask my mother to cook for me whenever I visit Egypt (followed closely by Bamia – okra stew, Molokheya, Mahshi, and koshary, in case you were wondering). So until my next trip to Cairo – my own version, which admittedly is pretty close to my mom’s rendition, will have to do.
- 500 g of fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
- 4-5 medium tomatoes, rouglhly quartered OR 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 heaping tbsp of tomato paste
- 1 medium red onion, chopped (just under 1 cup)
- 1½ tbsp sunflower seed, olive or other cooking oil of choice
- 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 tsp maple syrup (optional)
- 1½ cups of water (to be used as needed)
- First, start by preparing the base for the fresh tomato sauce (if using). To a blender, add the tomatoes and half a cup of water then blend until smooth. Set aside.
- On medium heat in a medium-sized pot, heat the oil for a couple of minutes before adding in your chopped onions. Stir frequently and cook for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
- Add in half of the blended tomatoes and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes until you achieve a rich, red colour, stirring from time to time. Then add in the remainder of the mixture, along with the tomato paste, as well as salt and pepper and maple syrup. Allow to cook for another 3 minutes.
- Add the trimmed green beans, followed by enough water to cover. Stir through, and bring to a boil.
- Cover and cook on low heat for 15 minutes or until the beans are cooked through but still with a bite. The sauce should have cooked down, but if you'd like it thicker you can cook for a further 5 minutes uncovered on medium heat to reduce.
- Turn of the heat and add in the chopped garlic and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve warm over rice or grain of choice.
Maple syrup can be subbed for 1 tsp of sugar, the intention here is to cut the acidity of the tomatoes.
It’s worth mentioning that a lot of tomato-based vegetable stews are cooked the same way (with minor differences), so effectively if you master one you can pretty much master them all.
But there really is something special about a hearty rich tomato sauce envoloping tender yet crisp veggies over fluffy Egyptian rice with vermicelli.
In a pinch, tinned tomatoes will of course do – but in my opinion it is the fresh tomato sauce that really makes this recipe sing.
I hope you try this one soon, friends. Ramadan Kareem to you and your families!