“Whoaaaaaa”, was my initial response when I saw the bin of fava beans at Whole Foods. With their inch-long, flat, wrinkly appearance, and the dark eye on one end, I was immediately intrigued.
“That is the coolest looking bean I have ever seen.”
“Should we get some?”
So we bought a bag of the intriguing fava beans, which then sat in our cupboard for an embarrassingly long time. Finally, with a bit of external motivation (such as the fact that our time in New Orleans is steadily shrinking & we need to focus on eating what’s already on the shelves…), I dumped the favas in a bowl, covered them with water, and looked into what I could concoct with them.
Ful Mudammas, or Faul, pronounced “fool” either way, is a popular Egyptian dish, and just about the only recipe using dried fava beans that I could find on google. It’s on the menu at the Middle Eastern restaurant where I work, but I have never tried it there, since only a week after I started, we’ve been “out” of it (after tasting our version, Joe stated that “out” likely meant, “the cooks are keeping it all for themselves”). In the little bit of research I did, I found out that Ful is usually eaten for breakfast, but can also be a lunch, or dinner for the poor, and is considered to be an Egyptian national dish. After his first taste, Joe concluded that Egyptians are very lucky people, if they get to eat that for breakfast!
At its most basic level, Ful consists of fava beans, onion, tomatoes, cumin and salt. I played around with this base a little, and highly recommend the results! This is then quite adaptable with any number of different garnishes and accompaniments, such as: garlic sauce, bechamel sauce, tomato sauce, olive oil, melted butter, parsley, bread, flat bread, hard-boiled eggs, beef, lemon or lime wedges, cheese, or fruit…. At least that was the list of serving suggestions I found online. We decided to be nontraditional, and ate ours with collard greens & avocado (& rice for Joe), which we declare entirely delicious.
Apparently canned favas exist as well, but I highly recommend cooking your own! Besides the fact that you get to see these crazy looking beans in all of their shriveled glory, you will also get the fun of peeling their leathery skins off. I know that probably sounds like a lot of work, but trust me, it isn’t!
This recipe really is very simple. Probably the easiest tastiest dinner I’ve made in a while. Don’t be mislead by how long my instructions seem to be. I just like to write.
2 cups dried fava beans (about 4 cups cooked, or 2 cans)
2 bunches green onions, or 1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 tomatoes, chopped, or 1 can diced tomatoes (we only had canned, I’m sure fresh would be super tasty!)
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or more😉 (optional)
The night before you plan to make Ful, put your beans in a large bowl or pot, and cover them with lots of water. Let them soak 10-24 hours. Optionally, add 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar to the water. This helps reduce the phytic acid in the beans.
Before cooking, drain the beans and peel them. Their leathery skins pop off easily after being soaked so long! Put the peeled beans in a large pot, cover with fresh water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer until tender. I think this took 45-60 minutes for me, but I really wasn’t paying attention to the clock so I can’t be certain; they don’t take long though. When done, drain and set aside.
Put oil in a large pot (I used the same one I cooked the beans in) over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onions. Cook them until translucent, then add the garlic and stir for about a minute longer. Add the tomato, then the spices and salt, and cook for a couple minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the fava beans to the pan, and you’ll also most likely want to add some water at this point. I didn’t measure how much I added, but you’re going to simmer this for about 15 minutes, and will probably need a little more liquid than just what comes from the tomatoes. After simmering for 15 minutes or so, you can mash the beans as much as you like. I found that they were already pretty broken up at this point, but did give them a few mashes with the potato masher. Add some lemon juice, season to taste, and serve, alone or with whatever accompaniment you’ve chosen!