Most of us are probably not used to thinking about an ingredient like beans for breakfast. And dishes made with garlic and spices would be even less commonly found on our morning menus. But in Egypt, fava beans have been a popular breakfast dish (called ful medames) dating back to ancient times. It is usually served with a fried egg and pita bread, which is great for scooping up the fava beans.
Fava beans, also commonly called broad beans (the word fava actually means broad in Italian), were cultivated in the Middle East for 8,000 years before they spread to Europe. Evidence of them has been found among the relics of the earliest human civilizations and inside Egyptian tombs.
Although the fava beans, with their kidney shape, look a lot like lima beans (butter beans), they remain firmer when cooked and actually have a stronger flavor. They also have two skins that must be peeled. You can break open the outer pod and remove the beans the same way you do with peas. But then the beans need a quick steam or boil to soften the inner membrane so it can be peeled as well.
In addition to it's popularity in Egypt, ful medames is also frequently found in the cuisines of Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, Israel and Jordan, among a handful of others. Each country and region is likely to have a slightly different version of the dish. In Syrian cuisine, for example, the beans would be slow cooking in a large vat overnight and then be added to the olive oil and large amounts of tahini and red pepper paste. Ethiopians are likely to eat the ful with injera (a pancake-like bread) instead of pita.
- 1 1/2 lbs of dried fava beans or broad beans
- 2 cloves crushed garlic
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
Soak the beans overnight in a large bowl of water.
Drain the beans, add them to a large saucepan and cover them with fresh water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer on low for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the beans are tender.
Drain and place in medium bowl. Add the crushed garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and cumin and toss well to combine and coat. It's common to mash the beans together with the other ingredients but you can also leave them whole and well mixed.
Serve hot with a fried egg and pita bread.
Don't have time to make ful yourself? Ful is actually sold as a canned good in Middle Eastern and specialty ethnic grocery stores. Try it now!