Ful Medames (Slow Cooked Fava Beans)

I’m a proud kitchen traveler.

Cooking from countries across the world, I learn about their histories, climates, and geographies. While I may not have been to these places in real life, I feel like I’m connecting with a tiny part of their culture. And when I do travel, I find that I can instantly bond with anyone over food.

Ful medames (Egyptian fava beans)
Ful medames: just as good the next day too!

Ful medames, also known as ful, took me to Egypt. The history of ful can be traced back to the Middle Ages (at least!). During this time, to maximize fuel efficiency, ful was cooked overnight using heat from dying embers which warmed bathwater in public bathhouses. Hence, the small, round of fava beans earned its name– bath beans (fūl hammām), and the merchants near the bath houses gained a near monopoly on ful. [1]

I searched long and hard in Vancouver for dried small fava beans– I visited my beloved Persia Foods and Donald’s Market, large grocery chains, and even Indian markets– but I was out of luck everywhere. Eventually, I settled for dry broad fava beans instead.

To mimic the effects of simmering the beans overnight, I pressure cooked these beans to help soften the skin and physically break them down. I also simmered them for a few hours to get it to the desired (uber soft) consistency. When boiling beans, it’s important to never add salt to the water. The salt causes the skins of beans to harden, which is undesirable. Salt can be added to the dish once the beans are fully cooked.

Researching this recipe, I came across quite a few seasonings and accompaniments that can go with ful: clarified butter, lemon juice, cumin, olive oil, eggs (fried or boiled), chili powder, bechamel sauce, tomato sauce, onions, pepper sauce, tahini and parsley. I added thinly sliced red onions, lemon juice, cumin, olive oil, and salt.

Here’s a version made with red lentils:

Ful Medames (Slow Cooked Fava Beans)

Yield: ~2 L (a lot)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb dry fava beans (small, round variety preferred, I used broad fava beans)
  • Water
  • Salt to taste (~1 tsp)
  • Lemon juice to taste (~1/4 cup)
  • Ground cumin to taste (~1-2 tsp)
  • Olive oil to taste (~1/4 cup)
  • Red onion, thinly sliced (to garnish)

Method

  1. Soak the fava beans in water for at least 8 hours at room temperature. Or in the fridge for 1-2 days. Drain the soaking water and rinse.
  2. In a pressure cooker, cover beans with 2 inches of water and cook for 30 minutes.
  3. Transfer everything (including the liquid) to a pot, and simmer for 2-3 hours, make sure the beans are mostly submerged, add more water as needed. My beans turned into a homogeneous brown mass as they simmered, I think that’s a good sign. I also cooked mine with the lid off for to evaporate excess water and help the ful to thicken up.
  4. When the bean mixture is thick and soft, season with salt (~1 tsp), lemon juice (1-2 lemons), ground cumin (1-2 tsp), and olive oil (~1/4 cup). Mix well. Garnish with thinly sliced red onions and serve with Middle Eastern bread and lemon wedges.

[1] Wright, C. (n.d.). Did You Know: Food History – Ful — The Egyptian National Dish. Retrieved September 14, 2015.

Sprouted Mung Bean Wrap

I love beans. They’re a nutritional powerhouse full of protein, fibre, iron, B-vitamins, and carbohydrates. Replacing meat with beans can contribute to a healthier diet overall, and help reduce the ecological costs of animal farming.

Sprouted Mung Bean Wrap

Beans are the seeds of plants. Given some moisture, they will readily sprout roots and shoots. During the sprouting process, enzymes change the nutritional  composition of mung beans– iron and phosphorus in the beans are more readily absorbed, vitamin C and folic acid content increases, and digestibility of protein is improved.

This recipe is inspired by The Settler’s Cookbook– A Memoir of Love, Migration, and Food  by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. The novel documents the histories of East Indian settlers in Uganda and East Africa. These stories are interlaced with recipes for delicious Indian-African dishes; a true testament to the significance of food in her culture, as well as her life as a woman of the Indian diaspora.

The most addictive part of this dish would have to be the sour-salty-spicy taste from the lime, salt, and chilies. I ate it wrapped in some store-bought roti, which made a delightful lunch.

Sprouted Mung Bean Wrap

Serves: 3

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry whole mung beans
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 3/4 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
  • 3/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 3/4 tsp ground dried turmeric
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp green chili, minced
  • 1 dried red chili, broken in half
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • Salt to taste
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 6 cooked rotis

Method

  1. In a bowl, soak the mung beans in water for 24 hours at room temperature. Beans will expand to about twice their size during the sprouting process, so using a larger bowl is wise.
  2. Rinse mung beans, add some water (not enough to completely cover, but about half of the beans should be submerged). Place a damp cloth on top. Allow to sit for 12-24 hours. The beans should have tiny shoots by now. Rinse and drain before using.
  3. In a large pot over medium-high heat, add oil. When hot, add mustard and cumin seeds. When the popping slows down, add turmeric, ginger, garlic, and chilies. Cook until aromatic but not burnt.
  4. Add water and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Add sprouted mung beans, cook over medium heat until almost all the water is absorbed/ evaporated, about 10-15 minutes.
  6. Season with ground coriander, cumin, salt, and lime juice. Serve with warmed rotis.

Falafel Pita Pockets

Originating from Egypt, the idea of a bean-based fritter spread from the Arab world to the Middle East. In Israel, chickpea became the legume of choice and this is the version of the falafel we made.

Falafels Pita Pockets

The fate of the falafel isn’t always to be wrapped up in warm pita bread. You can try dipping it in tahini  sauce (tahini paste, lemon juice and water), or hummus.

Recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/my-favorite-falafel-231755 

  • I had cooked chickpeas on hand so we used those, but I think using soaked raw chickpeas would probably lead to a fluffier, less mushy fritter — I definitely want to try that version next time!
  • I was very impressed with the overall taste. The spices and seasonings flavoured each bite without being overwhelming.
  • We made a tzatziki sauce with ~ 1/2 cup drained yogurt, 1/2 shredded cucumber (salted with 1/8 tsp salt, and excessive water squeezed out),  2 tbsp chopped cilantro and parsley, 2 cloves minced garlic, salt, and pepper to garnish the pita. A more traditional condiment (which happens to be vegan) would be tahini sauce.
  • Next time, I would add the baking powder after refrigerating the falafel mixture so the balls puff up more during frying.

Falafel Dinner

Fava Bean and Dill Khoresh

Khoresh is a Persian word meaning stew. Much like making stews, there are many ways of making khoresh. The main ingredients are meat (chicken, lamb, beef, duck), beans (chickpeas, white broad beans, fava beans), and vegetables (onions, carrots). Additional flavour comes from spices (saffron, cinnamon, clove, turmeric, pepper), sweet / acidic seasonings (quince, rosewater, orange blossom water, dried fruit, pomegranate seeds/ molasses, citrus, sour grape juice), and,/ or nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachio).

I love blending ingredients to create a harmonious chorus of savory, sweet, and acidic flavours, which I think is what khoresh strives to achieve.

IMG_5385

I found the necessary ingredients at Persia Foods in Vancouver. I tried to follow the original recipe since I’m very new to cooking Persian food.

My end product was a decent 3/5. This dish had a good balance between the earthiness from the turmeric and the acidity from the verjuice (unripe grape juice). Flavours of dill stood out prominently against a background of sweet caramelized onions and fragrant rosewater. One thing that I would change is the fava beans–maybe fresh or frozen (which were called for by the original recipe) would’ve had a milder aftertaste. I also found the skin of the beans to be a bit tough. I wonder if this was due to the acidity from the verjuice: cooking beans in acid can prevent the skin from softening. But that doesn’t really make sense because the beans were already cooked when they were purchased in a can… Overall, this dish was a welcome change in my routine, but it needs a few modifications before I would consider adding it to my repertoire.
IMG_5389

Fava Bean and Dill Khoresh

Recipe modified from: http://www.najmiehskitchen.com/pdf/fol_favabeankoresh.pdf

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 7 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt, more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1.5 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1.5-2 cups water
  • 1 can fava beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups chopped dill (I used the fronds from one large bunch)
  • 1/4 cup verjuice (unripe grape juice)
  • 1/2 tsp saffron strands
  • 2 tbsp rosewater
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2-4 eggs

Method

  1. In a large pot over medium heat, saute onions in oil until caramelized.
  2. Add garlic, salt, pepper, turmeric, saute for 2 minutes more. Add water and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, put rosewater in a microwaveable bowl and microwave for 20 seconds until hot. Add saffron to the rosewater and let stand for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add fava beans, chopped dill, verjuice, saffron and rosewater to the onion mixture, simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat oil over medium and fry the eggs until desired doneness.
  6. Taste the stew, adjust salt and seasonings as needed. Serve with fried eggs on top.

Late Summer’s Salad

End of August, the last few days of summer cling onto shorts, ice cream cones, and the outdoor swimming pool. Amidst the goodbye to warm weather and sunny days in Vancouver, we’re lucky enough to say hello to the season’s bounty: farm-fresh vegetables and fruits from local growers.

I’ve made a few variations of this salad already, using yellow bell peppers, chickpeas, eggs, figs, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, bulgur, dried tofu, and yellow wax beans in various combinations with one another. The dressing was kept simple: olive oil, vinegar, salt, black pepper. Once I used soy sauce, canola oil (sesame, chili, or Sichuan peppercorn oil would be perfect here as well), white pepper, and rice wine vinegar for an Asian-inspired taste.

A hearty salad, perfect for lunch or dinner in the summer heat.
A hearty salad, perfect for lunch or dinner in the summer heat.

The trick to making this salad quickly is to pre-cook as many of the ingredients as you can ahead of time. For example, I soaked and boiled about 1 cup of dry chickpeas, cooked 3 eggs, and reconstituted 1 cup of dried bulgur all at once when I made this salad the first time a few days ago. Today, I simply pulled the chickpeas, egg, and bulgur out of the fridge, and they were ready to use. This salad came together in no time at all.

Late Summer’s Salad 

Serves: 1

Ingredients

  • 1 roma tomato, seeds removed, diced
  • 1 mini cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 cup bulgur, cooked
  • 1/3 cup chickpeas, cooked
  • 3 figs, 3/8 inch cubes
  • 1 egg, boiled to your liking, cut into 8 wedges

Dressing

  • 1-1.5 tbsp acid (balsamic vinegar, or rice, red or white wine vinegar, or lemon juice)
  • 1-1.5 tbsp olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and black pepper

Method

  1. Put all ingredients except the egg into a medium-sized bowl, mix well to combine.
  2. When ready to serve, gently lay the egg pieces on top of the salad.

 

To compliment the sweetness of the figs, I used a dark chocolate balsamic vinegar from the Vancouver Olive Oil Company (http://vooc.ca).
To compliment the sweetness of the figs, I used a dark chocolate balsamic vinegar from the Vancouver Olive Oil Company (http://vooc.ca).

Roasted Chickpeas with Turmeric & Cayenne Pepper

Beans and lentils are wonderful foods to regularly include in most diets. They’re high in fibre, protein, and iron, and help fill you up for a longer period of time. I love this recipe because it produces a crunchy snack that’s perfect for taking to school or work. It’s also super easy to make, and the seasonings can be adjusted according to your preferences.

Roasted chickpeas, seasoned with turmeric powder and cayenne pepper
Roasted chickpeas, seasoned with turmeric powder and cayenne pepper.

The secret to making crunchy roasted chickpeas? Start with dry beans, soak them overnight in the fridge, then roast. Soaking the beans allows them to absorb enough moisture to rehydrate, but not so much that they turn mushy. Plus, dried beans are way cheaper than their canned counterparts.

I wonder if taking a shortcut for soaking the beans would work. Instead of soaking them overnight, would boiling them for 5-10 minutes and then roasting them produce a satisfactory result?  If someone is interested in trying this, please let me know how it turns out!

A pile of roasted chickpeas sit on my dining table
Potential flavour combinations: cumin & coriander seeds; cinnamon & brown sugar; herbs de Provence; smoked paprika; Szechuan peppercorns; crushed seaweed… 

Roasted Chickpeas with Turmeric & Cayenne Pepper 

Makes: 1 cup

Time: overnight soak + bake 30-40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry chickpeas, soaked overnight in 3 cups of water, drained
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper powder

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400 °F.
  2. Mix oil, salt, and chickpeas in a 9 in. x 9 in. baking pan, or any baking tray where the chickpeas can fit in one layer.
  3. Bake in oven for 30 minutes, stirring to ensure even browning after 20 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven once chickpeas are mostly brown in colour, more or less time may be needed depending on your oven.
  5. Season with turmeric powder & cayenne pepper powder. Allow to cool for a few minutes before eating.

Sambar- Vegetable and Dal Stew

This recipe comes from The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking, which describes this dish as thicker than ordinary dal and especially easy to digest. I wanted to make this because it called for tamarind, which gives a great tangy flavour to a dish. As with all recipes from this cook book, it makes enough to feed quite a few people (6-8) so if you’re cooking for one or two and do not want left overs until the next week, I recommend that you half this recipe.

Sambar: Vegetable and Dal Stew
Sambar: Vegetable and Dal Stew  

Begin by boiling salted water, then adding washed mung dal.
Bring back to a boil, remove any froth on the surface, and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

While the mung dal are simmering, extract the tamarind pulp.
This is a picture of the tamarind and water mixture. 

Tamarind is a tropical fruit, it is often sold as tamarind paste, which looks like a small brown square brick wrapped in plastic. To extract the pulp, you can boil the tamarind paste in just enough water to cover for 5 minutes, then press the mixture through a sieve with the back of a spoon. Or, if you’re too lazy to put on another pot, submerge the tamarind paste with just enough boiling water to cover, then microwave for 1 minute. But be careful, the tamarind paste mixture may boil over in your microwave, so watch it carefully!

Extract the pulp from the tamarind by pressing it through a sieve with
the back of a spoon. Discard the dry and stringy bits left in the sieve. 

When your dal is almost finished simmering, start another pan for the vegetables. Heat oil until hot, then add black mustard seeds and pop a lid on your pan. When the mustard seeds stop jumping around, add in ground cumin, coriander, and turmeric, saute for a second more, then add in your vegetables. I’ve used some peeled green squash (looks like a large, curvy, light green zucchini), and carrots.

Saute vegetables of your choice in spices, I have some green squash and carrots.
Once the vegetables are lightly brown, add in grated coconut. 

Toast the coconut for 2 minutes, then add the dal and tamarind pulp to the vegetable mixture.
Be very careful, the dal may splash as you add it to the hot pan. 

Simmer the sambar until the dal is fully cooked and the vegetables are soft. Check to adjust the seasonings before serving with white rice and an Indian bread, or with masala dosa or atta dosa.

Sambar: Vegetable and Dal Stew
Sambar: Vegetable and Dal Stew

Sambar (Vegetable and Dal Stew)
Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 6 cups (1.4 L water) 
  • 3 tsp salt 
  • 1 1/4 cups (250g) mung dal, toor dal, green split-peas, or whole lentils, picked and washed thoroughly 
  • 1 1/2 lb (675g) assorted vegetables (eggplant, carrots, tomatoes, green beans, squash), cubed 
  • 2 oz (50 g) tamarind 
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) vegetable oil 
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin 
  • 2 tsp ground coriander 
  • 1 tsp turmeric 
  • 4 tbsp grated coconut (I substituted with unsweetened desiccated coconut) 
Method 
  1. Bring water and salt to a boil, add washed dal and boil uncovered using high heat for 10 minutes. Skim any froth that accumulates, then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. 
  2. Meanwhile, extract the pulp from the tamarind by boiling it with enough water to cover for 5 minutes and pressing the tamarind and water mixture through a sieve to extract as much of the pulp as possible. 
  3. In a separate pan large enough to hold both the vegetables and the dal, heat up the oil, then add the mustard seeds, quickly putting a lid on the pan to prevent the mustard seeds from popping out. 
  4. When the mustard seeds have finished popping, add the cumin, coriander, and turmeric, then add the cubed vegetables and cook until the vegetables are lightly brown. 
  5. Add in the grated coconut and toast for 2 minutes. 
  6. At this point, the dal should be ready. Add the dal and tamarind pulp to the vegetable mixture, and simmer until the dal is fully cooked and vegetables are soft. Serve with rice and an Indian bread or dosa.