I have been very lucky to have had the chance to live for many years in the Middle East, where the Ful bean is such a basic staple food. Now that I'm back in Leeds, the occasional nostalgia does grab me - memories of wonderful dishes and meals.
And I've been lucky again - finding out that my common or garden Broad Bean, once dried, is the same vegetable! What follows is an exercise in a wanderer's homesickness for places, friends, and good food - a few recipes using dried Broad Beans.
Recipe 1 - Basic Ful - Egyptian style
Best cooked in a large quantity, I think, so that I have a good supply for other dishes over the next few days
- 750 g/1.5 lbs dried Broad Beans
About 3 times the volume of water
good teaspoon of ground cumin
- Put the beans in a large, heavy saucepan, with the water, and the cumin (to prevent any anti-social effects).
- Bring to the boil, and simmer on a VERY low heat for at least 4 hours - until the bean skins are tender. I simmer on the heat for an hour, turn the gas off for an hour, and simmer again gently for an hour - if you try to hurry them, the bean skins stay hard and tough! Add water if necessary.
- The beans are ready when they are only just holding their form. I add salt to taste at this point - NEVER before.
- Take a good ladle-ful (about 200 g; imagine half a tin of baked beans!) per person. You can mash roughly if you wish - the consistency should be of a VERY thick soup. Serve in soup bowls - drizzled with olive oil, accompanied by pitta bread, and a salad; and
- a couple of spring onions, and cubed feta cheese;
- a hard-boiled egg;
- a fried egg laid on top, or a plain omelette;
- onion and/or 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped and fried;
- quarter lemon, and chopped parsley or coriander.
- Alternative ways of cooking - boil in a saucepan, then cook overnight in a slow-cooker; or boil in a saucepan, and put in a tight-lidded casserole, in the oven (120C, 250F, gas mark 1/2), overnight. You may need to add water so the beans are always just covered - or they discolour.
- Personally - the simpler the better! The quantity above will make enough for two meals for my family - so here's a few more ways of using the basic beans.
Recipe 2 - Ful - more adventurous
- For 4-5 people, in a large frying pan or skillet with some olive oil, fry a couple of sliced onions, 2-4 cloves chopped garlic, (and 1-2 chopped hot chillis, if you wish), gently until they are soft; add 6 tomatoes, quartered, and a chopped green pepper;
- Add 4 ladle-fuls of cooked ful (about 800 g, imagine two cans of baked beans), and cook until beans are heated through, but tomatoes still retain their shape:
- Serve in soup bowls, accompanied by pitta bread and a salad of green leaves and whole spring onions.
Recipe 3 - Ful, a Sudanese recipe
My friend and colleague Othman, a Sudanese nurse, served us this one Ramadan on top of a mountain in Yemen. I remember it as one of the best meals I've ever had.
- You'll need a couple of hard-boiled eggs; separate the whites and the yolks, and chop both very finely. Finely chop a good handful of finely chopped fresh coriander or parsley (flat-leaved, by preference);
- Take enough cooked ful for four people, and mash roughly with 1-2 tablespoons of smooth peanut butter (unsweetened, if possible), salt and pepper to taste. Heat through in a large skillet.
- Smooth the ful in the skillet, so that there is a very slight "ridge" round the edge; drizzle over a little olive oil. Sprinkle the chopped egg yolk in a circle in the middle, the chopped egg whites in a circle round this, and the chopped herb in a third circle. Serve the skillet, accompanied by warmed pitta breads and a simple salad - definitely a meal to be eaten by hand from the communal dish!
Recipe 4 - Ful, Yemeni-style
Hard to replicate properly, but I very have good memories of it.
- Make a rich thick tomato sauce (a chopped onion, 2-3 cloves garlic fried; 6-8 tomatoes chopped and added (or a tin of tomatoes), with some tomato puree; cooked with enough water, herbs and seasoning, to be thick and flavourful);
- Add 2-3 sliced hot greeen chillis to the tomato sauce, and mix with hot cooked and roughly mashed ful, (about 1 part sauce to 2 parts ful). Pour into a ferociously hot stone cooking pot - with care, as the mixture should be spitting round the edges.
- In some ful shops, you can also have a beaten egg added and mixed in - it cooks very quickly.
- The stone pots are worked out of solid rock, and bound with thick metal wire - presumably to stop them blowing apart.
Recipe 5 - Bessara - an Egyptian recipe
Another memorable meal - this time one generously shared by a farmer; I'd been walking through some fields to find an old Coptic monastery near tthe village of Akhmim, in Upper Egypt. Sadly, I haven't yet managed to replicate his recipe to match my memory of it!
- To cooked and well-mashed (or liquidised) ful, and mix in a good handful of fresh spinach, very finely chopped; also add a handful of finely chopped fresh mint, parsley, and coriander. I use fresh spinach to replace fresh melokhia - you can get dried melokhia in ethnic shops here in Leeds, but it's not the same.
- The idea is to have a very thick, fresh, green soup - delicious, with pitta bread! If I can work out the right proportions.
Recipe 6 - Ta'amiyya or Falafel - Egyptian style
Fried bean cakes - served inside a pitta bread, with some fresh salad; another Egyptian staple. Superb!
- 500 g (1 lb) dried broad beans soaked over night, and skinned next day
1 tsp salt
black pepper - generous grinding
half tsp ground coriander
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
good handful chopped fresh coriander, or parsley (flat-leaved, by preference)
sesame seeds (optional)
enough oil for deep-frying
- Put the beans through a mincer twice, or a food processor, until they are fairly fine ground;
- Add remaining ingredients, and knead to a smooth, soft mixture;
- Form into balls - the size of two walnuts; flatten slightly, and roll in the sesame seeds if you wish;
- Deep fry until nicely browned and cooked through - it takes 3-5 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on absorbent paper;
- Serve, accompanied by warmed pitta bread, fresh green salad, hummus, and tahina sauce; let people assemble their own sandwiches.
These can also be made with chick peas, or indeed any white bean.