Najafi Qeema is an Iraqi dish usually cooked during religious holidays and is given to everyone who walks by.  It is called “Qeema” and Najaf is a city in Iraq that is known for having the best recipe. With the weather being much colder this time of year, we tend to prefer warm dishes for dinner. I grew up eating a variety of stews. This one in particular is very rich in flavor, is nutritionally dense, rich in fiber and protein, and very filling.

The great thing about this dish is it can be prepared as a vegan dish by omitting the beef and relying on the chickpeas for protein. This dish is a rich source of micro and macro nutrients. Tomatoes, chickpeas, and beef are all nutritionally dense. Traditionally it is served with cooked white basmati rice.

Beef protein is a high quality protein as it contains all essential amino acids, and, in lean cooked beef, the protein content is 26-27%. In some studies it has been suggested that it may help encourage muscle maintenance and growth. Beef is also rich in conjugated linoleic acid, which in some studies it has been linked to weight loss and other health benefits. Beef is also rich in Vitamin B12, Zinc, Selenium, Iron, Niacin, Vitamin B6, and phosphorus.

Chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) are a great legume. They provide an excellent source of fiber and protein for plant-based dieters. They are also also rich in manganese, folate and are a great source of protein. There is 15g of protein in one cup of cooked garbanzo beans.

Tomatoes are highly nutritious, with many studies showing the role tomatoes can play in preventing liver disease. Once cooked, tomatoes have a higher antioxidant activity at a lower calorie cost. They are rich in vitamin C, iron, antioxidants and lycopene – which may decrease heart disease risk and macular degeneration.


Ingredients: Some of the spices and herbs can be found at any Indian grocery store or online.

  • Beef chunks, 1 pound (try to get a tender cut; for this recipe I use tenderloin)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A few cardamom pods
  • 2 dried limes ground
  • 1 Tbsp of each ground: cinnamon, cardamom, 7 spice or all spice and turmeric
  • 2 Tbsp of salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 4 tomatoes, pureed
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 white or yellow onions, large
  • 2 cans of chickpeas
  • 2 cups white basmati rice
  • ½ tsp saffron, to taste
  • 1 liter of water
  • 2 Tbsp of butter, or olive oil

Instructions: (the stew)

  • Boil beef for about an hour and a half with the bay leaf and cardamom pods, skimming the fat in the process. Then remove from heat and shred the beef.
  • Chop the onions and sauté in oil, once translucent add the beef, and all the spices and 1 Tbsp of salt, on medium heat and continue to sauté.
  • Rinse the chickpeas in a strainer then add to the mix and sauté making sure to stir for about 15-20 minutes on medium heat.
  • Using a potato masher, mash it all and stir, you want the chickpeas to be emulsified with the beef.
  • Add tomato puree, tomato paste, and 1 liter of water mix well and bring to boil.
  • Let the mix boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer for an hour or longer so that it thickens. Make sure to stir to prevent sticking.

Instructions (rice):

  • Wash the rice with cool water, repeat until the rinsing water is clear, then soak in water.
  • Bring 2 liters of water to boil, add 1 Tbsp salt.
  • Drain the rice from the water and add to the boiling water.
  • Reserve ½ cup of water and rice mixture from the boiling pot, add the saffron to it, and let it simmer on medium heat in a separate small pot.
  • Lower heat to medium high, and wait about 7 minutes until the rice is cooked (to taste).
  • Drain the water from both pots (the saffron rice pot and the white rice pot) add the saffron rice on top of the white rice, and add the butter.
  • Lower the heat to the lowest setting, then cover.
  • Let sit for about 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork and serve.

About the Author:

Hiba Jameel has a master’s degree in Nutrition Science and Policy from Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. She also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from the University of California, San Diego. She is also on the board of directors for A/NT Gallery, a curator and an artist herself. "I love the evidence-based approach to nutrition and love holistic nutrition as I see both worlds working together in harmony towards great health. I am a health influencer and a healthy lifestyle advocate. I do not believe that there is a single ingredient that can cure all; rather, leading a healthy lifestyle is the key to enjoying a long, healthy lifespan. My thesis proposal was about the possible prevention or delay of chronic illnesses through nutrition as an aid to a healthy lifestyle, after studying the dietary habits of centenarians living in the blue zones, specifically the Mediterranean regions. I aspire to be a part of a big chronic illnesses prevention movement that can help people enjoy a fruitful life. When I am not studying, spending time with family or conducting research, I enjoy working out, painting, drawing, and landscape photography."

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