It’s Foul time !!!

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Honestly words cannot express how much I love this dish !! enough to say that it takes me back to my beloved Egypt with the first mouthful.

let me tell you a little about this dish please ..  {for those who are only after the recipe please ignore my chit chat .. and scroll straight down to recipe card}

Ok .. ladies and gents this is the Egyptian national dish, called ‘FOUL MEDAMMES’ apparently medammes is originally a Coptic word meaning ‘buried’ which refers to the way the beans are cooked as in ‘buried in the pot’.

Taking you to the original story of Foul which, I myself didn’t know until just recently and please don’t quote me on this one, I read this story in one of the books about Egypt history and it just made so much sense to me and left me with raised eyebrows and going  ‘AHAAAAA’ !!

here it goes .. Back in the middle ages the making of Foul was taken over by the people living around the princess baths, which was located in today’s ‘old Cairo’ {take a look at the pics below}.

During the day bath-attendants would put on fires to heat the ‘Qidras’ which are huge pots of bath water.When the baths closed, the fire would still continue to burn slowly for hours and hours.. So to make good use of the fire, genius Egyptians thought of filling up these huge ‘Qidras’ with fava beans, leaving them overnight to simmer on this low fire heat, and so by the morning the beans would be perfectly cooked and served for breakfast to Cairo’s population, they used to cook huge amounts of Foul, that some small food businesses would send their boys to buy their whole sale Foul from the baths and sell it to the locals. Genius right?

The streets of old Cairo

Nowadays, the traditional pot we cook the beans in,which has a unique shape, round from the bottom with a narrow neck is called ‘Qidra’ which kinda makes sense with the story I ‘ve just told you.

These photos were taken by me on my last trip to Egypt about 8 months ago .. I was exploring the old streets of Cairo on that day, bringing back memories and introducing my kids to their culture, my little one was not so impressed with the hygiene levels, but I have to say they had a great time!

Now this would be the typical ‘Foul cart’ you would see in the streets of Cairo, and although they are mobile, but usually the popular ones stay in the same spot for years, their ‘foul’ would be so tasty that  people ranging from simple working class to wealthy business men, would travel long distances to stop there and treat their souls with a delicious humble foul dish. YUM!!

 

A foul cart usually means everything to their owners, they feed their kids from what they sell on the day, the third picture here is for a poor old father of 5, having a bad slow day, he said to me that he had  decided to park his car for a while, give himself a break, and hope god would send him some customers in the afternoon .. but he was happy for me to take the shot and even gave me a little smile ..

Foul in Egypt can be eaten at all times of the day but more commonly as a traditional breakfast.. It can also be eaten ‘anywhere’ so you will find it in the fields, in village mud houses, in the cities’ streets, and although it’s a cheap street food, you will still find it served in fancy restaurants and 5 stars hotels as a meze or as an oriental breakfast that always fascinates tourists and makes them come back.

Beans being the main ingredient in this dish, makes it a protein rich one, and will leave you full for a looong period of time, that’s why its even more popular during the fasting month of ‘Ramadan’ to have for Sohour < the predawn meal> it is a satisfying dish for sure !! and according to a popular Arabic saying ‘Foul has satisfied even the pharaohs’ lol

Enough talking .. let’s start cooking ..

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There are many types of dried fava beans in the markets they vary in size and colour slightly, all could be used but the smaller and lighter the better.

These ones are on the darker side but I couldn’t find lighter ones it’s alright as long as they are the small size ones.

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Cooking time could vary according to the type of beans , but as a main rule, leave them on low heat until they soften from the inside.

 It would be a good idea to cook your beans in advance and just reheat before serving.

Ok , so first ‘this is very important’, soak your beans for at least 5 hours, changing the water at least once(ideally 3 times), Or you could soak them overnight, change the water in the morning, leave for and hour or two, then rinse and start cooking.

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You will notice some bubbles on the surface of the water, that’s what we are looking for.

This step will help the beans release some gases making it much easier to digest.

 Rinse beans place them in a pan, cover with water bring to the boil and leave to boil for 5 mins only.

Now, drain the beans and transfer to your cooking pot, I used a slow cooker but you can also use an oven proof casserole style pot with a lid, treat it as a stew, and cook on low heat around 120 degrees Celsius until soft from inside.

Add some red lentils .. some people add medium grain rice but I personally prefer lentils.

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Cover the beans with boiling water, and leave to cook on low for 3-4 hours checking the water levels.

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You know your beans are cooked when they are really soft from the inside ..

Over cooking your beans is not an issue at all, it only means that they won’t hold their shape, but they will be easier to mash before eating.

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Beans can be eaten as is, or to make them even easier to digest, you could push the hot cooked beans through a sieve to get rid of the outer layer. You will end up with a smooth texture as shown in pics.

Now its time for some flavour.. and for me ‘Foul’ goes hand in hand with Tahini, so lets make some.

 Yogurt balls ‘Labna’ ? why not .. and more over, cover them with yummy Dukka !

Check my previous home made Dukka post

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Some tomatoes, spring onions, lemon wedges, boiled eggs, spices, garlic, olive oil and we are done ..

 

 Before serving, season the beans with a little salt and pepper

Now! you have 2 options for serving

Either to add your favourite ingredients and pre mix with beans before serving as such …

OR .. if you are serving for people with different preferences, which is usually the case, then serve plain ‘Foul’ and let them flavour their own dish, more enjoyable and less work for you 🙂

Don’t forget to serve with fresh pitta bread and please use your hands!

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Bon a Petit  ‘Bel-Hana’

Egyptian Fava beans 'FOUL MEDAMMES'
Serves 6
Slow cooked fava beans with Tahini and Labna
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Prep Time
10 hr
Cook Time
4 min
Total Time
10 hr 4 min
Prep Time
10 hr
Cook Time
4 min
Total Time
10 hr 4 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups of dried small fava beans
  2. half a cup of red lentils rinsed.
  3. salt and pepper to taste
  4. ground cumin to taste (roughly 2 table spoons for the whole amount). extra for serving
For Tahini
  1. 3 table spoons concentrated Tahini paste
  2. around 10-12 table spoons of warm water
  3. half a teaspoon ground cumin
  4. 1 table spoon white vinegar
  5. 1 table spoon lemon juice
  6. pinch of salt
For serving
  1. 6 hard boiled eggs, optional
  2. chopped spring onions
  3. diced tomatoes
  4. regular olive oil
  5. lemon wedges
  6. ground cumin, salt, and chilli flakes
  7. freshly ground pepper to taste.
  8. garlic cloves and crusher.
  9. yogurt or yogurt balls(Labna) plain or covered with Dukka,optional
Instructions
  1. Wash the beans well, then cover generously with water, leave to soak over night or at least for 5 hours.
  2. Change the water in the morning and leave to soak in the fresh water for another 1-2 hours.
  3. drain and rinse. If soaking for 5 hours or more during the day,then change the water 2-3 times during soaking
  4. Place the beans in a saucepan cover with water and bring to boil, then leave it boiling for 5 mins only.
  5. Drain the beans and transfer to the slow cooker or a deep casserole dish.
  6. add the lentils then cover all beans with boiling water. don't use cold water at this stage.
  7. Cover with a lid and leave on low heat to simmer for about 4-5 hours depending on the type of beans.
  8. If using the oven, set it on 120 degrees Celsius, make sure you check water levels often and add boiled water if needed, just to cover the beans.
  9. Do not stir during cooking, as it will cause them to stick to the pot.
  10. Check after 4 hours if your beans are cooked, by squeezing a bean, if its very soft from the inside then your beans are ready.
  11. For tahini: add ingredients and stir vigorously to form a homogenous paste adjust salt to taste.
  12. When beans are fully cooked transfer to a bowl.
  13. If desired, you could get rid of the outer layer of your cooked beans for easier digestion by simply passing the hot beans through the holes of a drainer as shown in picture above, leaving the outer layer behind to discard, you should get a smooth puree;
  14. otherwise serve them as they are.
  15. add some olive oil about half a cup to this amount of beans or simply leave it to the diners to add.
  16. on serving, season your own beans bowl with cumin, salt, pepper, chilli (optional) add lemon juice and tahini to taste.
  17. traditionally served with hard boiled eggs, and flat pitta bread
  18. I added some yogurt balls(Labna covered with Dukka
  19. please use your hands its more enjoyable.
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