Moroccan white beans in tomato sauce is always served as a starter to a winter lunch. It can be made with or without tomatoes but a bit of tomato paste is definitely needed.
Because my family comes from Fez, we tend to use khlii and its fat in many things, this dish is one of them. It’s crazy how it just lifts it up. However, for a vegan version, you don’t have to.
I personally add smoked paprika in many “red” dishes and I do it for loubia bida as well.
You may add vegetable stock as my mother does but I prefer to also add some ribs or bones which you can discard just before serving. They add such a depth to this hearty starter. My dad used to add spicy North African meat sausages (merguez is only one variety). However, it’s worth mentioning that as a starter, you can keep the recipe completely vegetarian.
We like to serve the white beans in red sauce with some harissa or fried hot chilli for those who want it a bit spicy.
Loubia el bida is usually served in humble food joints across major Moroccan cities and it’s considered to be a cheap hearty filler..It’s a must try!
In the process of making this dish in different countries, I discovered that some white beans take longer to pre-soak and cook than others. I’d definitely avoid using the beans used for sweet baked beans or the mega flat ones used in Greek/Levantine cooking unless you know your deal..
I use a pressure cooker for this white beans dish and I pre-soak the pulses for 24 hours. You should adjust the cooking time according to the quality of beans used. You could still add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in the pre-soaking stage and another 1/2 teaspoon during the cooking. That’ll save you time if you encounter resistance.
Serves 4 to 6 Prep: 10 min- Cooking time: 60 min (pressure cooker)
- 250 g of dried cannellini white beans/haricots blancs, presoaked for 24 hours in cold water and rinsed
- 1/2 cup of passata or 2 medium tomatoes, grated (no seeds)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons khlii (optional)
- 3 ribs or bones with marrow (optional), use vegetable stock instead
- 1 small handful chopped coriander
- 1 tbsp of sweet paprika
- 1 tsp of cayenne
- 2 tbsps of tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp of ground white pepper
- Salt to taste
- 1 tsp of smoked paprika (a favourite personal addition)
- 3 tbsps of good extra virgin olive oil
Parboil the beans until you see a layer of foam which you should discard. Drain the beans and transfer them to a pressure cooker or a Dutch oven.
Add everything except the oil, tomatoes and khlii. Add about 5 times the quantity of beans in water Cover/seal.
Cook the beans on low heat for 60 minutes more or less, depending on their quality.
Carefully open to check on the beans. They should be almost cooked, al dente. Add the rest of the ingredients and check if there is enough liquid. Stir from time to time. Let simmer until the beans are perfectly cooked and the sauce is reduced.
If you are planning to have beans as a main dish you can add spicy sausage or merguez. Let simmer for 5 min and serve warm with bread or without.
Any leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days. You could thin it with a bit of water before heating it again.