Kurdish White Beans (shley fasouleh)

Kurdish White Beans. Excerpted from Taste of Persia by Naomi Duguid (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2016. Photographs by Gentl & Hyers.

There’s a whole category of easy stews called shley in Iraqi Kurdistan. Navy beans are the main ingredient in this particular shley, but I’ve also had it made with split peas. Like most shleys, this is flavored with a basic baharat (spice mix) of turmeric and cumin and cooks in a sauce flavored with a little tomato. I learned the dish in Iraqi Kurdistan from a woman named Nermi. Nermi includes a dried lime in her shleys. It gives a distinctive and pleasingly intense aroma to the beans, but it can be omitted if you wish. I like to serve this as I had it in Kurdistan, with plenty of bread and a generous bowl of fresh herb sprigs and greens — for example, trimmed scallions, flat-leaf parsley, and arugula or watercress. The other element on the table that goes beautifully with the beans is a salty cheese such as feta.

Makes 3½ to 4 cups; serves 3 or 4


  • 2 tablespoons sunflower or extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 cups cooked navy beans, with their liquid (see The Precooked Beans Habit, p
  • age 82), or about
  • 2½ cups drained and rinsed canned beans plus ½ cup water
  • 1 to 1½ cups water
  • ½ cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 dried lime (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste


  1. Place a heavy pot over medium heat, add the oil, and toss in the turmeric and cumin.
  2. Cook for a moment, until you see the turmeric fizzing a little in the oil.
  3. Add the beans, the water, and the tomatoes. If using the dried lime, prick it several times with the tip of a knife (be careful not to cut yourself, since it can ricochet if it’s very hard) and add it to the pot.
  4. Stir to mix, bring to a boil (press on the dried lime so it takes in liquid and starts to sink, rather than floating on the surface), and boil hard for a few minutes.
  5. Add the salt (only ½ teaspoon if the beans are already seasoned), lower the heat to maintain a strong simmer, partially cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve hot or at room temperature.
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