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Don't be a Fool, have some Ful
Member Name: Hishyeness
Date: 12/09/09, updated on 12/09/09 (298 review reads)
Advantages: Quick, easy, chock full of goodness
Disadvantages: Garlic breath!
Ful (pronounced "fool") means "fava bean" in Arabic, and is one of my favourite Levantine foods. Unusually for my meat-orientated palate, it's vegetarian (and vegan) as well. At its heart, it is a bean stew topped with fresh chopped vegetables and herbs. It is a popular dish in the Middle East and North Africa.
It's a really healthy dish, chock "ful" of goodness (sorry - I couldn't resist!), very easy to make and quite satisfying for breakfast, lunch or dinner. My Mother, who was born and raised in Lebanon, used to make it for me at home, and whilst my version is not a patch on hers, I think most people will be pleased with it.
The following should make enough for two generous portions):
One large can of fava beans in brine (by large, I mean at least 500g)
Four large plum tomatoes (or two beefsteak tomatoes)
A large handful of parsley
2 large spring onions
2 large cloves of garlic
Cumin (to taste)
Ground black pepper
Freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
Extra virgin olive oil
I get my fava beans from a local ethnic food shop, but if you find them hard to come by, try a different mix of hardy bean (i.e. avoid butter beans or cannellini beans as they tend to be quite soft - a combination of chick peas, red kidney beans and black eyed beans also works but is less authentic).
Rinse the beans and place them in a large saucepan. Using the empty can, add a can-full of water and slowly bring the broth to the boil. In the meantime, dice up the tomatoes, chop the parsley, slice the spring onion and mash up the garlic cloves with a little salt.
Put half of the garlic into the saucepan with the beans, then add about a teaspoon of cayenne and the same of cumin (more or less to taste). Season the stew with salt and black pepper to taste and then add half of the lemon juice.
Bring back up to the boil. With a potato masher (or the back of a wooden spoon) mash up some of the beans to thicken the broth, then reduce to a simmer on low heat, lid off, for about ten minutes to allow the stew to thicken. Pour some olive oil into a small cup, add the rest of the garlic and blend it together to make garlic oil.
Serve the stew up into soup or pasta bowls. Then add a generous amount of the fresh, chopped tomato, the spring onions and parsley on top, drizzle with the garlic oil and add some of the fresh squeezed lemon juice (to taste).
A FILLING FAVOURITE
Ful is simple and easy to make. The fava beans have good staying power, which makes this an excellent brunch dish - as evidenced by the fact that Muslim Arab peasants used to have it for breakfast during Ramadan, as it "sits in the stomach like a stone" making the all day ordeal of fasting that much easier to bear.
The tomato, garlic and parsley add a freshness to it, while the olive oil is nicely balanced out by the acidity of the lemon juice. Make sure you don't skimp on the olive oil or go for a cheap alternative - it's not the same without the added flavour that a quality oil brings to the dish.
My Dad likes to have some mint sprigs and whole spring onions in a side dish to chomp on throughout his meal, and would not consider it complete unless he had some warm pitta bread to mop up his plate with. I sometimes also add a sprinkling of coriander, but not within sight of my Mother, who would no doubt chase me around the kitchen with a rolling pin for committing such sacrilege.
© Hishyeness 2009
Summary: One of my all-time favourite Middle Eastern dishes
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