My husband is Egyptian, so I encountered a whole new culinary world when I married him. The truth is, I didn’t even know how to cook on our wedding day!
After the honeymoon, I went out and bought all sorts of Middle Eastern cookbooks and he taught me how to cook a lot, too. Still, there were lots of burnt meals and last-minute pizza deliveries in those early years.
One of the simplest things he introduced me to is ful medames or fava beans. I’ve heard that Egyptians eat them at all hours of the day, but we eat them for breakfast. They are cooked until tender and then served with an assortment of toppings. I like to serve them buffet-style, with a big pot of beans and then several smaller bowls of toppings. My family just walks down the line selecting the toppings and garnishes they want. The exact toppings used seems to vary from family to family and from region to region. My husband’s family is from Cairo, and they generally top their ful with olive oil, lemon juice, tomatoes, parsley, and cucumbers. My husband’s friends from other parts of Egypt use tahini and boiled eggs to top their beans. So, it’s really all a matter of taste.
Many people eat ful with pita bread. I haven’t perfected gluten free pita bread, though, so we usually just eat it with a spoon. Sometimes we mash the beans and eat it on gluten free sandwich bread. Cooking methods vary wildly from cook to cook, but I think the crockpot method is by far the easiest. Just put them in the slow cooker before you go to bed and you’ll wake up to the delicious smell of breakfast already prepared!
- 1 pound dried fava beans
- 1 tablespoon red lentils (optional, used for thickening)
- 1/2 tomato (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- Optional toppings:
- Cucumbers, chopped
- Tomatoes, chopped
- Lemon wedges
- Onions, chopped
- Parsley, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- Chili pepper flakes
- Hard boiled eggs
- Feta cheese
- Rinse and pick over the beans, removing any rocks or broken beans.
- Place the beans in the crockpot. If using, add the optional lentils and half a tomato.
- Fill the crockpot about 3/4 of the way full of water. This will seem like a lot of water, but you need it. The beans get too dark if they aren’t properly covered with water.
- Place the cover on the crockpot, turn it to low and leave it to cook overnight. Note: these need to cook on low for at least 10 hours. If you have less time than that, cook on high.
- In the morning, prepare your optional toppings and place them in individual bowls.
- Spoon beans and a little liquid into individual bowls. Add olive oil, salt, pepper, and cumin to taste.
- Allow each person to dress his or her beans to taste.