Dinner · Libyan · North African

Rooz fil Furoon (Libyan Rice Casserole)

Back when I worked 50-60 hour work weeks as a process engineer, I always craved a homemade dinner. Unfortunately, when you are living alone…you have to make that homemade meal yourself. After being at work 9-10 hours, I really didn’t have the energy to cook something that took long or required a lot of effort. I either picked up dinner on my way home or if I knew I had something good on the DVR waiting for me, I’d make one of my quick recipes. Rooz fil Furoon was probably the easiest and least hands-on of my quick dinner recipes. I would spend about 15 minutes doing prep, then put it in the oven for half an hour while I would watch an episode of The Mindy Project or Parks & Rec. During the second commerical break, I would pull the casserole out of the oven, give it a stir and pop it back in the oven. After the show was over, I’d make a salad. Once that was done, I would take the casserole out of the oven and a homemade dinner was ready to enjoy! As an added bonus, I made some progress catching up on my DVR’ed shows and was able to mentally decompress after that long day at work. I love multi-tasking that involves food and my DVR. It’s only second to multi-tasking that involves food and Netflix because I don’t have to fast-forward any commercials, which has always been the downside of DVR’ed shows.

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Rooz fil Furoon is another one of the regional Libyan dishes. It originates in western Libya, possibly Tripoli. As far as I can tell, it is relatively unknown in eastern Libya, which I find surprising since they prefer rice to pasta there. Many of my Libyan friends don’t know it and it’s not something you serve to guests. So it’s just one of those family recipes I grew up eating. Rooz fil Furoon also has one of those lovely, simple names. It literally translates to “Rice in the Oven.” Therefore, it’s a rice casserole. In case you are not aware, a casserole has two very specific definitions. It can be the name of the actual cooking vessel that also doubles as the serving vessel. Or a casserole is a prepared dish that consists of meat, vegetables and a starch (rice, pasta, potato, flour, etc) baked in the oven. And Rooz fil Furoon fits that second definition perfectly, so I just think of it as a Libyan casserole now.

What’s even more wonderful about this Libyan casserole is that it is a very versatile recipe and you can change up the vegetables based on what you have in your vegetable drawer/crisper or in your freezer. My favorite combination is green beans and spinach. By the way, I found that frozen spinach in Germany is a bit different than what I am used to in America. In America, frozen spinach that comes out of a bag just pours out like small frozen pieces of clumped up spinach leaves. In Germany, the frozen spinach is in the form of large pellets! I thought maybe it was just one brand here, but I’ve tried 3-4 brands now and they all come in frozen pellet form. I’m not sure the reason behind it, but it’s probably not efficiency for the home-cook. It takes a while to defrost on the counter or in a sauce. I miss American frozen spinach.

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Frozen spinach in Germany comes in the form of large pellets. I’m not a fan and think it’s just plain weird.

Another combination could be peas and spinach. Or give it a Mexican twist with black beans, corn and diced green chilis (the canned variety). Or avoid the vegetables altogether and just add some chopped parsley to give the rice a little extra flavor. Be creative and make it your own!

So know that we’ve discussed casserole definitions and vegetable combinations, we can move on to the actual dish. As most Libyan recipes, Rooz fil Furoon consists of tomato paste, a diced onion and the usual spice mix (Libyan bzaar, paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper). And to allow this dish to cook quickly, it uses ground beef as the protein. Here is where you need to put some thought into the dish: what will you cook it in? This recipe requires you to start it on the stove and finish it off in the oven. You can use a pot and a deep oven-proof dish (i.e. a Pyrex dish or Corning Ware casserole dish), or a pot that can also be placed in the oven (i.e. no plastic-coated handles, etc) like a dutch oven. Since I like to embrace laziness when I can get away with it, I found that a way to minimize my clean-up time at the sink is to use…a casserole vessel that doubles as a pot! You know, the kind you cook in, bake in and serve it in! Just one item to clean-up later. I have a lovely medium-sized enamaled cast iron pot that I can start on the stove and just put in the oven. As an added bonus, it’s in a lovely shade of lapis blue and looks beautiful on the dining table when it’s full of food. My mother always told me to never serve food straight out of a pot, it’s just a huge no-no; however, beautiful and over-priced enameled cast iron cookware is the exception to this rule.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon paprika (sweet, not smoked)
  • 1 teaspoon Libyan bzaar spice mix (if you don’t have any, use Arabic 7-spice and a pinch of turmeric)
  • cayenne pepper, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons salt, adjust to taste
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 2-3 cups green beans, trimmed and cut (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup frozen spinach (or 2-3 handfuls of fresh spinach, roughly chopped)
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain, white rice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium-sized pot, heat the oil over medium heat and add the diced onions. Sautee the onions until softened. Add the ground beef to the pot and brown it. Once the meat has been browned, add the spices, salt and tomato paste.

Stir the mixture and allow it to sautee for about a minute. Then add the water and mix well. Allow the sauce to just come to a boil and add the vegetables. As I mentioned earlier, you can use the green beans and spinach as listed in the recipe…or you can be creative and use your own combination! Also, the measurements of the vegetables are just approximations…you can increase or decrease the amount to suit your own preferences. Allow the vegetables to cook for about 1-2 minutes, then turn off the heat. Add the rice to the pot and gently stir it in.

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Cover the oven-safe pot with the lid (or pour the mixture into a deep casserole dish and cover with a lid or some aluminum foil) and place it in your pre-heated 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven.

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After about 15 minutes, remove the pot/dish from the oven and very carefully remove the lid/foil as very hot steam will be released. Give the rice a stir, re-cover it and place it back in the oven.

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Leave the rice in the oven for another 15 minutes. At this point, remove it from the oven and carefully uncover (hot steam will be released again!), then take a small bite of the rice to ensure it is cooked. If it still needs more time, recover and place it back in the oven for 3-5 more minutes. By the way, my rice is always ready after a total of 30-35 minutes in the oven, it really shouldn’t take longer. Once the rice is cooked, gently stir it and allow it to cool uncovered for at least 5 minutes before serving. I like to serve this with a Mediterranean-style salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Enjoy!

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Libyan Rice Casserole (Rooz Fil Furoon)

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A flavorful Libyan rice dish that is baked in a spicy tomato sauce with vegetables and ground beef. Absolutely delicous!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon paprika (sweet, not smoked)
  • 1 teaspoon Libyan bzaar spice mix (if you don’t have any, use Arabic 7-spice and a pinch of turmeric)
  • cayenne pepper, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons salt, adjust to taste
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 2-3 cups green beans, trimmed and cut (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup frozen spinach (or 2-3 handfuls of fresh spinach, roughly chopped)
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain, white rice

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a pot, sautee the onions in the oil over medium heat until softened. Add ground beef and sautee until browned.
  3. Add the tomato paste, spices, black pepper and salt. Sautee for a minute or so, then add the water and allow it to just come to a boil.
  4. Add the green beans and spinach (or use your own vegetable combination).
  5. Cover your pot with it’s lid and place it in the oven. (Or if you are using a baking dish, pour sauce into the dish, cover it with foil and place it in the oven.)
  6. After 15 minutes of baking, remove from oven and mix well. Cover and put back in the oven for another 15 minutes until it is ready.
  7. Taste the rice to ensure it is cooked, if it is not cooked…place it back in the oven for 3-5 more minutes. When the rice is ready, remove it from the oven, give it a stir and allow it to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

 

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