Posted in Serious Eats
July 19, 2022

Ganach Lupia (Armenian Braised Green Beans

Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

Every Armenian family has their own recipe for ganach lupia or ganach fassoulia—tomato-braised green beans. This dish is so fundamental to Armenian cuisine that its name means simply “green beans” (ganach is Armenian for “green" and lupia is the Armenian word for "bean"; fassoulia is the Arabic word for “bean”). To put it another way, when an Armenian hears the term “green beans” or even just “beans,” it is this dish and not the raw vegetable that first comes to mind. (The fact that Armenians often refer to the dish by its Arabic name is evidence of its popularity throughout the Southwest Asian/North African region.) It’s fundamental in another way, as it’s an example of a class of similar tomato-braised vegetable dishes in Armenian cooking (bamiya, or tomato-braised okra, is another essential one).

As you’d expect from such a common recipe, there are numerous variations on the theme. There are vegetarian versions, where the beans are braised in a mixture of water and tomatoes, and meat versions, which include beef or lamb, either on or off the bone. The common denominator is the inclusion of onions and garlic as base flavors, along with time—vegetarian or not, the dish is cooked for hours, until the beans (and meat, if included) are meltingly tender and deeply savory. This is because green beans take a long time to cook until tender, since they contain a lot of lignin, the same cellulose-based compound that makes wood hard.

In my family, this dish—which we just call “fassoulia”—is made with lamb, and we usually use lamb neck or bone-in shoulder. While this is definitely a “meaty” main dish, the green beans are the star: the dish includes an equal weight of beans as it does meat, and a large percentage of the latter’s weight is taken up by bones. The meat is meant to accompany the beans and not the other way around— it’s included more as a source of umami depth and richness than it is for protein heft. In this recipe, I’ve called for bone-in shoulder chops because they’re easy to come by, but if you can find lamb neck bones, you should definitely use those instead. (Because lamb neck bones are rich in both collagen and fat, they’ll give the fassoulia a lip-smacking unctuousness.) I’ve also included an option for using beef, if you’d prefer to use that over lamb.

Side view of ganach lupia in a dutch over
Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

For the tomato component, I use both coarsely crushed, canned plum tomatoes and tomato paste for a double dose of tomato flavor. To add even more flavor, I add mild Middle Eastern-style red pepper paste—for additional sweetness and depth—and anchovies. The last ingredient is definitely not something you’ll find in other Armenian fassoulia recipes, but it’s something I reach for all the time when I want to lay down yet another base layer of umami in a dish. Used judiciously, it’s never noticeable as itself, only as intense savoriness. For the spicing, I use black pepper and allspice, but only in subtle, harmonizing amounts.

While making fassoulia is usually a long, low, and slow affair, there is one way to speed things along: Use a pressure cooker. What normally takes about two hours in a low (325°F/160°C) oven is done in just 12 minutes in a pressure cooker, along with however much time it takes for the cooker to come to high pressure, and the 20 minutes or so it takes to depressurize. I’ve included instructions and timing for cooking it whichever way you like; both yield identical results. Because the oven version requires a bit of stirring, I add the green beans near the midpoint, so they don’t fall apart once the lamb is cooked through. Long-cooked green beans hold their shape, but are prone to disintegrating if over-agitated. (For similar reasons, it’s best to stir the finished dish gently, no matter which way you make it.)

Serve fassoulia with a dollop of cooling, tangy yogurt, along with Armenian-style rice or bulgur pilaf with pasta.

If Using a Dutch Oven: Preheat oven with rack set in middle position to 325°F (160°C). While oven heats, using a sharp knife, remove bones from chops, leaving meat in large chunks and leaving behind any segments of meat clinging to bones. (Remove and discard any small shards of bone present.) Cut boneless pieces into 1-inch chunks and trim of excess fat. Place meat and bones in a bowl and toss with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for at least 40 minutes and up to 2 hours. Meanwhile, place tomatoes and their juices in a second bowl, crush coarsely with a pastry cutter or chop with a pair of kitchen shears, and set aside.

4 image collage. Clockwise from upper left: strips of meat on a cutting board; fat separated from meat on a cutting board; meat seasoned in a metal bowl; crushed tomatoes in a metal bowl.
Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

Heat 1 tablespoon (15ml) oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add boneless lamb pieces and cook, turning occasionally, until lamb is well browned on 2 sides, about 10 minutes. Return lamb to bowl with bones and set aside.

Overhead view of lamb cooked in a dutch overn
Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

Add onion and baking soda to Dutch oven and cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and anchovies and cook, stirring and breaking up anchovies occasionally with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, until anchovies have dissolved, about 4 minutes. Add pepper paste, tomato paste, and allspice, stir to combine with allium-anchovy mixture, and continue to cook until mixture turns dark brick red, 2 to 4 minutes longer.

4 image collage. Clockwise from upper left: onion mixture softened in dutch oven; garlic and anchovies added to onions; mixture fully combined in dutch oven; browned mixture in dutch oven
Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

Add lamb, lamb bones, water, and tomatoes to Dutch oven and stir to combine. Cover, and transfer to oven. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Two image collage. Top: lamb and tomatoes added to onion mixture. Bottom: Dutch oven placed into the oven.
Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

Stir in green beans, cover, and return to oven. Cook until meat is very tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Two image collage. Top: Green beans added to dutch oven. Bottom: fully cooked lamb and green beans in dutch oven
Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

Stirring gently to avoid crushing beans, add 1 tablespoon parsley and season with additional salt to taste. Transfer to serving bowl, top with remaining parsley, and serve, with yogurt and rice pilaf on side.

Overhead view of parsley being added into the dutch oven
Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

If Using a Stovetop or Electric Pressure Cooker: Remove bones from chops, leaving meat in large chunks and leaving behind any segments of meat clinging to bones. (Remove and discard any small shards of bone present.) Cut boneless pieces into 1-inch chunks and trim of excess fat. Place meat and bones in a bowl and toss with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for at least 40 minutes and up to 2 hours. Meanwhile, place tomatoes and their juices in a second bowl, crush coarsely with a pastry cutter or chop with a pair of kitchen shears, and set aside.

4 image collage. Clockwise from upper left: strips of meat on a cutting board; fat separated from meat on a cutting board; meat seasoned in a metal bowl; crushed tomatoes in a metal bowl.
Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

Heat 1 tablespoon (15ml) oil in a stovetop pressure cooker over medium heat until shimmering; alternatively, heat the oil in an electric pressure using its "sauté" setting. Add boneless lamb pieces and cook, turning occasionally, until lamb is well browned on 2 sides, about 10 minutes. If necessary, cook lamb pieces in batches to prevent overcrowding. Return lamb to bowl with bones and set aside.

Overhead view of lamb cooking in a dutch oven
Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

Add onion and baking soda to pressure cooker and cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and anchovies and cook, stirring and breaking up anchovies occasionally with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, until anchovies have dissolved, about 4 minutes. Add pepper paste, tomato paste, and allspice, stir to combine with allium-anchovy mixture, and continue to cook until mixture turns dark brick red, 2 to 4 minutes longer.

4 image collage. Clockwise from upper left: onion mixture in pressure cooker; ginger and anchovies added; ingredients completely combined in pressure cooker; tomato paste added to pressure cooker and browned.
Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

Add lamb, lamb bones, water, and tomatoes to Dutch oven and stir to combine. Place green beans on top, cover pressure cooker with lid, and bring to high pressure over medium-high heat, if using a stovetop model, or by setting to pressure-cooker mode on an electric pressure cooker, about 15 minutes, and cook for 12 minutes.

Green beans added to pressure cooker
Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

Remove pressure cooker from heat and allow to depressurize naturally; carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you.

Overhead view of pressure cooker with lid removed
Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

Stirring gently to avoid crushing beans, add 1 tablespoon parsley and season with additional salt to taste. Transfer to serving bowl, top with remaining parsley, and serve, with yogurt and rice pilaf on side.

Parsley being added to finished ganach lupia in pressure cooker
Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

Special Equipment

Large Dutch oven, stovetop or electric pressure cooker (optional).

Notes

This dish is also commonly made with beef in place of lamb. If you’d like to substitute, use bone-in beef short ribs, either English or flanken cut.

Biber salçasi can be found in Middle Eastern grocery stores or online. If unavailable, increase tomato paste to 3 tablespoons and add 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne and 1 teaspoon sweet paprika.

The pressure cooker might seem full when adding the beans, but they will cook down quickly, so don’t sweat it.

This dish is commonly served with the bones. If desired, you can remove the meat from the bones after cooking and discard them.

Make-Ahead and Storage

This dish reheats wonderfully, and—as with many braises—its texture even improves after a day in the fridge. Reheat it on the stovetop, stirring gently so as not to break up the beans.

Andrew Janjigian July 19, 2022 at 02:13PM

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