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Middle Eastern Spiced Braised Beef with Rice

September 22, 2017 by Nicole Collins

It's officially fall, which means my countdown to spring has officially begun.

And, it's time to start burying myself in comfort food.

Today's recipe is loaded with warm Middle Eastern spices to help battle the chill that's hanging in the evening air. It will warm us from the inside out!

I actually got the idea for this recipe from one of my employees, Leila. She is an AMAZING cook!

She's from Algeria, so a lot of her cooking is influenced by her African and French roots. She just has such a knack for creating these warm comforting flavors out of the simplest ingredients. And thankfully, she enjoys my cooking as much as I enjoy hers, because we share lunch almost every day.

There are a couple things that she makes that are my absolute favorites. I think my number one is her Lentil Soup. I've been begging her to teach me how to make it for 6 years! But, she'd much prefer to just make a big batch for me and watch me enjoy. I can't say I mind that.

But, I'm going to keep working on her because I need to be able to share her recipe with you guys. It's so delicious and comforting. I request it all year long.

Like I said, today's recipe is inspired by another one of my favorites of hers.

I tried my best to make mine taste as good as hers does, and I think I got pretty darn close. I let her taste it, and she gave me her approval.

I've tried many times to ask her for her recipes, but she doesn't typically have one. She usually just tells me what she uses, and I have to figure it out from there.

Actually, we talk about food a lot, and not everything translates correctly in her brain. So oftentimes, she tells me her ingredient lists in French. And, when I remind her that I don't speak French, she shows me a picture and I tell her the English word. We really learn something new every day with each other!

In Leila's version of this dish, she uses lamb. But, I chose to go with beef. Lamb is a staple in her native cuisine, but beef is more familiar to me. They can be used pretty interchangeably anyway, so it wasn't a huge stretch.

The meat gets slowly braised in a cooking liquid loaded with warm Middle Eastern Spices. Cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, paprika, and ginger are the stars of the show in this aromatic meat bath. The cumin and paprika bring a warm smoky note while the cinnamon and ginger provide a very subtle underlying sweet note. The sweet touch in the background is actually my favorite part of this dish.

Because we're taking our time braising the meat, it comes out of the pot fall apart tender. The meat literally melts in your mouth.

To serve, we use some of our braising liquid to cook up some rice. It just helps the flavors carry over throughout the dish, while the crisp basmati rice adds its own starchy flavor to the party. When you take a bite of it all together, you can't help but feel warm and fuzzy inside. Plus it gets this pretty golden yellow color from the turmeric which brings some life to the brown meat.

This recipe can also be made in advance, portioned out (both meat and rice), and frozen. It holds up really well in the freezer. Since this makes so many servings, I'll usually keep two or three servings in the freezer, take them out the day before to thaw, then heat it up when I'm ready to eat. It's still just as delicious as the first day you make it, and you get the benefits of all that hard work (and by hard work I mean watching the clock while 4 hours passes by) in no time at all.

So, thank you to Leila for trying to share your ideas with me. I hope I made you proud with this one! And please, teach me how to make that Lentil Soup!

Happy braising, and let's eat!


Middle Eastern Spiced Braised Beef with Rice

Serves: 6 Print


For the Beef:

  • 3 lbs boneless chuck, cut in to 1 ½ inch cubes

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 tsp salt

  • ½ tsp pepper

  • 2 onions, peeled and quartered

  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed

  • 2 tsp cumin

  • 2 tsp paprika

  • ½ tsp turmeric

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1 inch knob of ginger, sliced

  • 4 cups beef broth

For the Rice:

  • 1 ½ cups basmati rice

  • 1 cup cooking liquid

  • 1 ½ cups water


  1. Make the Beef: In a dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add beef cubes, salt, and pepper. Sear beef on all sides until a brown crust starts to form. Remove beef, and set aside on a plate.

  2. To the same dutch oven, add onions, garlic, beef broth, and remaining spices. Stir to combine, scraping bottom of pot to incorporate the brown bits from the beef. Add beef back to the pot, and nestle in the cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 3 ½ to 4 hours.

  3. Make the Rice: When beef has finished cooking, remove beef from braising liquid. Strain solids out of liquid. Take 1 cup of cooking liquid and 1 ½ cups water, and add to a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil. Add rice. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork, and serve.

Recipe notes:

*I use a spider strainer to remove the solids from the braising liquid instead of dirtying up another bowl and transferring the liquid through a mesh strainer.

*Using the cooking liquid in the rice helps to reinforce the flavors in a different way. Plus it gives the rice a pretty color. I love the texture of basmati rice, but you can certainly use the rice of your choice. You'd just need to adjust the liquid content and cooking time according to the package directions. As much as I love it, I would not use a brown rice though. The nutty flavor of brown rice overpowers the yummy braising liquid.

*This beef could also easily be done in a slow cooker. Follow the same steps, but cook on low for 8 hours instead of braising in a dutch oven.

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