Loubi: Braised Green Beans in Tomato Sauce

Technically this dish is stewed and not braised, but that doesn’t sound nearly as elegant.  Mind you, this isn’t a particularly elegant dish but it is delicious, wholesome, nutritious and affordable so perhaps we can overlook the fact that it is stewed beans.  Stewing, like most things in this vast world of ours, provides balanced good and bad in this dish.  The good:  delicious, tender, succulent beans in a flavourful and richly perfumed broth.  The bad:  discoloration turns those startlingly crispy green beans somewhat dull and khaki coloured.  It might not be a beautiful dish, but sometimes we learn to eat less with our eyes and more with our noses.  There’s just something about the intoxicating scent of cinnamon…..

Loubi is an Arabic word meaning ‘bean’ and another common name for this dish would be Loubi Bi Zeyt.  Technically that means “Beans with Olive Oil” but there is so little olive oil used that I think that’s a misrepresentation, and I’ll just call it good ol’ Loubi – which, by the way, I spell phoenetically.  You may read it spelled ‘Loubia’, ‘Lubyi’, ‘Lubya’, Lubiyeh’ and all sorts of other variations.  But stay strong, dear heart, it all means BEANS.

Loubi can be made with most types of green bean. However, a broad bean is preferred as they tend to be tougher and more fibrous, making them a perfect candidate for a long tenderizing braise…okay, stew.  Old habits die hard.  Carnivores take note that the dish often has meat, and in that case one would use the tough cuts that aren’t good for much except for stewing with lots of acid to break down the tenacious fibers.  To be honest though, I prefer the vegetarian version which is just as hearty but the protein comes from chickpeas instead.  

This green bean stew is a vegan friendly dish but the way that I make the rice uses some butter and a mixture of chicken stock and water.  If you are vegan or making this for a vegan audience you can use a flavourful olive oil in lieu of the butter, and use all water with a generous pinch of salt instead of the stock.  I would veer away from vegetable stock if it is one of the darker hued or tomato based stocks.

Loubi:  Braised Green Beans in Tomato Sauce

Serves:  6-8

  • 1/2 large yellow onion (or 1 medium size onion)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 kg (2.2 lbs) or about 8 cups of green beans
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch cayenne 
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 16 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • salt and pepper to taste
Chop up the onions and mince the garlic.

Top and tail the beans.  This is another one of the jobs where if you have children I strongly suggest that you exploit their labour at this point.  Two pounds is a LOT of beans, but their wee little paws just do such a good job at it AND it keeps them occupied for ‘a period of time’.  Heaven knows I did more than my share of bean tailing when I was a child. 

In a large pot heat the 2 tbsp of oil and saute the onion and garlic until it starts to become translucent.  This will only take about 5 minutes.

Dollop in the 2 tbsp of tomato paste and stir until the onions are completely coated.  Let this cook, stirring regularly, for about 5 minutes.  We want to cook off the raw tomato taste, but we certainly don’t want to burn it.

Pour in the big can of diced tomatoes and add the spices.

Chop the beans into roughly 2 – 3 inch lengths and add them to the pot.  Give it a nice stir so that they get coated with the juicy, spiced tomato mixture. 

Pour water into the pot until it laps up against the top tier of beans.  Turn down the heat to low, cover the pot, and let it stew for 40 minutes.

After 40 minutes add the rinsed and drained can of chickpeas.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Let this continue to stew for another 15 minutes until everything is tender and the water has reduced just a touch.  Adjust the salt and pepper as needed.

I am quite happy eating this in a bowl on it’s own, however Loubi is generally served on a bed of Lebanese rice.  Now I might have told you that Lebanese food is quite healthy and it generally is.  This rice is…well, somewhat less so.  But it’s also addictive.  There’s something about buttered rice that just makes my heart sing.  It also has a pretty and slightly mottled appearance from browning the orzo noodles before cooking the rice.

Lebanese Rice

  • 2 tbsp salted butter *
  • 1/4 cup orzo noodles
  • 1.5 cups long grain rice 
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock *
  • 1.5 cups water
  • salt to taste

* For vegan substitution use oil instead of butter, all water instead of stock, and add a generous pinch more salt.  Both the butter and the chicken stock are salted so you need to compensate for that.

Choose a pot or deep sauce pan which is big enough to hold at least 3 cups of rice.  Melt the butter over medium heat (or heat the oil if you’re doing it vegan-style!) until it starts to bubble slightly, and saute the orzo.  The orzo will start to turn golden brown.  Stir regularly, and although it’s hard to see in this picture you can tell as you stir it when the orzo has started to colour.

Add your rice to the pot and continue to stir for a minute or two.  Some of the rice will just start to become translucent and it will all be coated in the butter.

Pour in the chicken stock and water (or just water) and sprinkle with salt if you like things to more seasoned.  Bring the rice up to a rolling boil. 

As soon as it boils turn the heat down to the lowest possible setting, cover the pot and don’t remove the lid for 20 – 25 minutes.  When it is done, turn off the heat, give it a quick fluff with a fork and you’re ready to go!

To plate the Loubi spoon rice into the bowl and top with the green bean stew.  My brothers are big fans of the rice and their bowls generally looked like this:

I was always a big fan of the beans, and my bowl generally looked like THIS:

The rice to bean ratio is entirely up to you.  Eat, and enjoy!

What’s playing:  Gold In The Air Of Summer by Kings of Convenience.

  • Tara

    Hey – did you know tomato paste can be purchased in tubes? I love it, that way I don’t waste a whole can when all I want is a couple tablespoons.

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    I know! Isn’t it great all the things that come in tube form now? Tomato paste, anchovies, chestnut puree – I also really like the tubes of basil or lemongrass pastes that they have now for when I’m in a hurry. I hide them in the back of my fridge because I’m always a little bit ashamed when I don’t use the real thing, but they do the trick!

  • Tara

    Don’t be ashamed! As long as you’re not using that garlic-in-a-cube stuff, I think you’ll be fine!

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  • http://stickygooeycreamychewy.blogspot.com Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy

    I make an Italian version of this with tomato sauce and potatoes. I love the combination of spices you used. It looks like a lovely dish!

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Thank you Susan! There’s just something about tomato braised beans, isn’t there? The spices are very traditional for Lebanese cooking, so for me this is the comfort food that my Dad used to make all the time when I was growing up.

    My friend’s mother made braised beans in tomato one time in her traditional Greek way and they were also just to die for. I wish I knew what she had done!!!

  • http://kopiaste.org Ivy

    Hi Tina. Thanks for commenting on my blog. I think you e-mailed me once before. I am really glad you did because this gives me the chance to visit you back. You have a very lovely blog and I couldn’t choose on what recipe to leave a comment as I liked everything I saw. However, I had to comment on loubi because in my home country, Cyprus, there is one particular type of beans which we call louvi and this is one of the many names of Cypriot dishes which have been influenced by the Arab cuisine.

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Ivy, thank you for stopping by!! You’re right, I DID visit you to ask about a delicious stewed tomato and broad white bean dish that a Macedonian friend’s mother used to make. I still haven’t figured out what it is yet, but I’m going to make a similar dish that you had on your website and see if I can’t get close….

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  • Rebekah

    Thank you for posting this, my Dad used to make this all the time, and I have tried to make it just right for years now since he’s passed, I knew I was close but I was missing something… NUTMEG ! Thank you for bringing me back to my youth !

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Rebekah – we’re so glad that you like the site and we hope that you enjoy this dish! I have never used nutmeg in loubi (I prefer the cinnamon and/or allspice) but it sounds like a welcome addition as well.

  • mtngigi

    I’m Lebanese and grew up eating Loubi … prepared like this, or cooked with well-browned chunks of lamb and cubed potatoes – my mother’s rule seemed to be that if she added potatoes, we ate it like a stew. Without the potatoes, we’d eat it over rice pilaf.

    For a dish that is going to cooked as long as Loubi is, frozen green beans work quite well. Fresh green beans and frozen green beans end up exactly the same way in this dish. Just don’t ever start with canned green beans! But really, frozen are very good here, if you can’t find good fresh beans or are looking to save some time.