Ful Medames is a national Egyptian dish. I would say it is the most famous Egyptian dish since I’ve never heard of any other. It’s made of Fava beans (sometimes called broad beans) and is usually eaten for breakfast or lunch with pita bread. It is very similar to Mexican refried beans although the flavors are slightly different. The dominant taste is lemony and even though plenty of garlic is used, you can barely taste it.
It can be made either with young Fava beans or old ones. I used older ones which have a brown color, young Fava beans are very green in color. If you’ll use young beans you probably won’t have to shell them but honestly I’ve never seen Ful Medames made with green beans that’s why I used older, brown beans. If you’re discouraged by the process of shelling beans don’t worry, it’s not that bad and since beans are really large, it goes pretty fast. Some people prefer to shell Fava beans before cooking but I find it easier to do it after they’ve been simmering for an hour. That way you can just squeeze them and they easily pop out of their shells.
You can always use canned Fava beans and not worry about shelling them. That seems like a good option especially when you’re in a hurry because they will also cook much faster. However lately I try to use dry beans instead of canned ones. Somehow it makes my cooking seem more natural.
By the way, I just read that Bob’s Red Mill Fava Beanshave been naturally blanched to remove the unsavory skins. Whoa, if I only knew before. Next time I’ll buy Bob’s Red Mill brand Fava beans.
Ingredients (server 4-5):
1 Ib (16 oz, 450g) dry Fava beans soaked overnight in water
6-7 garlic cloves
Small bunch of parsley
Juice of 2 lemons
3 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup sliced cherry or regular chopped tomatoes
Smash garlic cloves with a flat part of the knife and remove the outer layers. Chop parsley.
In a small skillet toast cumin seeds until you can smell intense aroma. Transfer to a pestle and mortar and grind.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or pot and add the garlic cloves and cumin. Saute one minute and add drained Fava beans. Cover with water, put a lid on and simmer for about an hour or until beans are soft.
Drain cooked beans through a sieve reserving the flavorful water. Let them cool down a bit and start shelling them. Make a small cut or tear a small opening on one end of a bean and squeeze the content back into the flavorful water. Throw away the shells.
Bring back beans to a boil and using potato masher, mash them slightly. Add parsley, lemon juice and tomatoes and simmer few more minutes until slightly reduced and thick. Stir from time to time.
At the end season with salt and pepper and serve with pita bread.