Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fuul Mudammas: Middle Eastern Fava Beans

I first tasted fuul in a tiny Tel Aviv hummus restaurant where I was served a plate of indescribably fresh hummus accompanied by a few tablespoons of delicious large brown fava beans known in Arabic as fuul. I haven't eaten hummus of that quality since and have never forgotten it or the fabulous fuul. So when I noticed a bin of dried favas at my natural food store recently, I scooped some up and brought them home to cook.

Fava beans are a staple in much of the middle east; most sources refer to fuul as the national dish of Egypt, where it is slowly cooked overnight and eaten for breakfast. A uniquely shaped pot called a fuul qidra was traditionally used for soaking and cooking the beans. Fuul is well loved in Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, and has a long history in Persian culture. Generations of Sephardic Jews have prepared a dish which includes whole eggs carefully nestled among the fuul; it is cooked overnight and eaten on the Sabbath. Some sources state that fava beans date from Pharonic times; one notes that fuul is mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud (circa 500 C.E.)

Fuul mudammas is made of cooked favas served with a variety of garnishes which are added at the table. Mudammas is usually translated to mean "buried" which most likely refers to the method of placing the fuul qidra in the embers of the cooking fire overnight. The beans are cooked in water without any other ingredients. Seasonings and garnishes are presented in small dishes for the diners to choose from; lemon wedges, olive oil, chopped onion, garlic cloves mashed with salt, chopped parsley, cilantro, or mint, pickled vegetables and fresh tahini sauce are some of the many traditional garnishes for fuul mudammas.

Fuul: Cooking method

2 cups dried fava beans soaked 8 hours & drained
6 cups fresh water

Place beans and water in a heavy pot. Cover and bring to a gentle boil; simmer until beans are very tender. Cooking time will vary depending on the beans; it may take up to 90 minutes. Some recipes advise removing the skins of the beans after the first 20 minutes or so of cooking, which involves letting them cool, peeling them, and then returning them to the pot to continue cooking. (I have found unpeeled favas delicious when thoroughly cooked, but be warned that purists may object!)

When beans are completely tender, remove from heat. Take a cup or two of beans and some liquid from the pot and mash in a bowl with a fork, then return to pot. Serve fuul in individual bowls, garnished with any combination of the following: Fresh lemon juice, olive oil, chopped parsley, garlic cloves mashed with sea salt. Fresh tahini sauce, made with sesame paste, lemon juice, garlic and salt is also a perfect addition to a plate of fuul.  (Tahina recipe posted 18 February 2013).