This is an emblematic comfort food on the Lebanese table; the carrot and peas stew simmers gently in a tomato and meat-based broth, the vegetables are added halfway through, and finally the cilantro pesto (to give the stew a spark of flavor)is thrown in the last minute. This stew (aka yakhneh) can also be made vegan, tastes light and delicious and would be great for a warm weather lunch, whereas the meat-based version is better suited for cold days…
The meat used for this stew (and all the other stews) is usually lamb shanks, cut into chunks with the bone. However, substituting beef shanks is more economical and works fine. The cilantro pesto can be substituted for mint pesto (see note, same technique). The rice pilaf that is served with the stew (to pour the stew on top of the rice pilaf) always consists of long-grain rice (usually Uncle Ben’s or a similar variety) and fried vermicelli noodles.
We used to eat this stew at home when we were kids when we’d get home from school during lunch break ( a long, long time ago). It is also one of the traditional stews on menus of cafeterias or mom-and-pop eateries throughout Lebanon.
As is always the case with traditional Lebanese cooking, this is slow-cooking; to speed things up, there are two things that can be prepared ahead: the meat broth and the cilantro pesto. Both can be safely stored in the freezer for several weeks. Having these two ready to go will allow you to get that stew done in less than 30 minutes, especially if using frozen peas in a bag instead of fresh peas and carrots. I prefer the fresh veggies if they are available, of course, but the frozen peas work fine.
I usually like to make a large quantity, because this stew freezes well and I can divide it up into small 12-ounce portions to grab anytime!
Carrots and peas stewJoumana Accad Mediterranean, Middle Eastern March 17, 2022 Whole Grain/Bulgur/Rice, Main Dish, Meats, vermicelli, lebanesefood, rice, green peas, carrots, beef shanks, cilantro pesto, rice pilaf, comfort food,
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
2 lbs beef shanks (can use less)
1 Tbsp oil or spray to prep the pot before browning the meat
2 Tbsps beef bouillon powder or 1 1/2 tsp salt +1 tsp black pepper +1 tsp cinnamon +1 tsp allspice (use more or less to taste)
1 large yellow onion, chopped (can use 2 onions)
1 or 2 bay leaves (optional)
1 can tomato paste (6 oz)
1 can tomato sauce without salt (or adjust salt) (12 oz) (optional)
2 lbs green peas
1 1/2 lbs carrots, peeled and sliced
2 batches cilantro or mint pesto (see Note)
2 cups long-grain pilaf
1 1/2 cup vermicelli pasta, broken-up into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup clarified butter or oil
salt or 1 Tbsp chicken bouillon powder
6 1/2 cups water (or broth)
- In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, pour a little oil and when the pot heats up brown the meat on both sides, adding some bouillon powder or spices (can be salt and pepper or salt with some allspice and a pinch of black pepper and cinnamon or any spice you favor). Add 6-7 cups of water and cover the pot; lower the heat and let it simmer slowly for 45 minutes; add the tomato paste, stir a bit, and the tomato sauce (if you like more tomato flavor) and let it cook another 45 minutes. At this point, you can freeze the stew and resume cooking later. If serving right away, drop the carrot coins and simmer another 20 minutes.
- Add the peas to the pot, stir a bit, and add the cilantro pesto previously made or frozen. Stir and simmer a few minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning and serve warm with the rice pilaf.
- Heat the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Stir-fry the vermicelli pasta, stirring it from time to time to make sure to get it browned and toasted but not burnt, about 5 to 8 minutes.
- Add the rice and stir-fry it for a few minutes until it turns translucent while warming the water in a water boiling electric kettle or in the microwave. Add the water (best if boiling) and cover the saucepan. After the mixture boils, immediately reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 20 minutes until the surface of the rice shows little holes throughout.
- Uncover, taste a grain or two and if cooked properly, cover the pan, remove from the heat.
- 1/4 cup olive oil or clarified butter or ghee
- 1 or 2 tablespoons of garlic paste (garlic cloves chopped and mashed in a mortar with 1 teaspoon of salt or more, to taste)
- 1/4 cup powdered mint.
- Heat the ghee in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic paste and mint powder, stir gently for a few seconds; as soon as the mixture gets coated with butter and starts to get fragrant, take it off the heat and swirl it into the stew.
NOTE: The cilantro pesto is made the same way, using a cup (packed) of chopped fresh cilantro leaves.
- In a saucepan, over medium heat, stir-fry the vermicelli or fideos until light brown; add the rice and fry for a minute or more until it turns translucent.
- Add the water and the salt or bouillon powder. Cover and as soon as it boils lower the heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes or until it forms small holes on the surface of the rice. Serve.
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