Greens, beans and grains

Greens, beans and grains

By
Suzanne Zeidy
Contains
26 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742708027
Photographer
Jonathan Gregson

Fuul

'Fuul’ is the Arabic word for fava, or broad, beans. Cultivated since the time of the pharaohs, the fava bean was probably the region’s first bean and, along with chickpeas, peas and lentils, has shaped the Middle Eastern and North African diet since ancient times. Today, fuul is still the fuel on which Egypt is run - an everyday basic for rich and poor alike. Cheap, filling and nutritious, many Egyptians eat beans for three meals a day. A simple plate of fuul, sold from one of the brightly coloured street carts that congregate sociably on every bustling street, costs only a few Egyptian pounds, has much more protein for your money than meat and is satisfying enough to nourish a whole day’s labour.

In Europe, it is fresh young broad beans that are coveted. In Egypt, dried beans are the form used for two of the nation’s favourite dishes: fuul medames and taameya. These 'beans of the dead’, so-called because of the superstitions that have always lingered around the fava bean, are allowed to fully mature before drying. This means they are more nutritious than fresh beans, which are usually eaten green and immature, and they can also be safely stored for years and years.

Fuul medames, though a national icon, is a simple meal of cooked, mashed beans. The beans are slow-cooked in a large metal pot, called a qidra, for many hours. In the past, these huge pots were buried in the embers of the fires used to heat the hammams, or public bathhouses, the fava left to simmer all night ready for a waking city’s breakfast. Today, the qidras can be found being heated over gas fires or coals at the roadside, the huge pot then slotted into the body of a fuul cart. The beans are lightly mashed with oil or butter and fresh lemon juice, then ladled hot out of the quidra as the orders come in thick and fast, the cook deftly sprinkling the fuul with parsley, garlic, onion, tomato or hot chillies, stuffing the mixture into a baladi bread pocket for a takeaway sandwich or ladling a portion onto a platter with the bread on the side. Each cart makes their own special condiments: a fiery chilli paste, dukka, a hard-boiled egg or an oil and lemon mix. There is also always a selection of market-fresh vegetables: peppery rocket (gargeer), spring onions, tomatoes and pickles, customers scooping up a handful of herbs or vegetables in their bread with the fuul.

Taameya are bright green fava falafel, considered by most Egyptians to be far superior to the brown chickpea variety made famous worldwide by the rest of the Middle East. Whatever they were made of, these delicious little bean patties were almost certainly first eaten in Egypt, probably by the Coptic Christians who created them as a replacement for meat during lent. Taameya street carts are the stalwart of Egypt’s street food scene, often found nestled in beside carts serving fuul medames to provide an alternative bean breakfast, lunch and dinner to Egypt’s workers.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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