Bean and Lamb Stew (Masheh)
When I was younger, one of my favorite foods was this bean and lamb stew, known as “masheh” in Assyrian. I can still remember coming home from school and trying to guess what was for dinner based on the aroma coming from the kitchen. I was always excited when “masheh” was on the menu! I’m not sure why I don’t cook this stew more often, but it’s probably because I’m always on a diet, counting carbs, and avoiding rice like the plague. Today I decided to live a little; I invite you to do the same. After all, life is too short to never eat your favorite food!
In the Middle East, stews are cooked almost daily. The various stews have these ingredients in common: meat, tomato paste, onion, salt, and paprika. You’ll notice that a lot of the recipes call for lamb. However, if you don’t like lamb, you can easily use beef as a substitute. So, how do these stews differ? Well, that would depend on the vegetable or legume being added to the stew. Some of the possibilities include okra, green beans, zucchini, peas, eggplant, and potatoes. Basically, whatever is in season, or in stock. We sure are spoiled in this beautiful country of ours. We can drive two minutes to our local grocery store, and have an endless supply of ingredients to cook with. Mom sure didn’t have that luxury in Iraq! Maybe that’s what made her such an amazing cook, she had to get creative!
How Stew is Served
Bean and lamb stew is traditionally served with either plain white rice, or vermicelli rice. You will always find a bowl of “jilaleh” or “herbs” at an Assyrian table. Herbs like mint, basil, parsley, and cilantro are included in this bowl. Besides herbs, scallions, radishes, and cucumbers are also added to this mix. It is customary to eat this mix along with the main meal. Pickles are also served alongside most meals. Besides rice, you can also tear chunks of bread and add them to a bowl, and pour the stew over the bread. Of course, if you are watching your carbs, I don’t recommend that option. Simply eat the bowl of stew by itself.