They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and in my opinion, the Middle East has some of the best breakfast foods out there. Even on the simplest of days, it is never just one dish, but rather an array of flavours, textures and foods, and you're bound to find at least one thing you like on the table.
One of these delicious breakfast dishes is ful medames, a dip made from fava beans. Most countries across the Middle East make their own version, with some cooking the beans down to a smooth paste, while others opting for a chunkier dip, but either way, it is absolutely divine! Today I'll be making the Palestinian version, which is on the chunkier side and has the addition of fresh tomatoes and parsley, which really brighten this dish up and give it more of a salad feel.
Ful is said to date all the way back to Ancient Egypt, while 2,600 fava beans were discovered at a late Neolithic site on the outskirts of Nazareth. The fact that this dish withstood the test of time shows just how tasty it is, in all of its versions, which can be found in the Levant, Egypt, the Gulf and Africa.
While ful is most popular as a breakfast food, many people enjoy it for dinner as well, as it is quite common in the Middle East for breakfast and dinner to be similar in that they are lighter foods and lunch is usually the main meal of the day. Growing up, I wasn't a fan of ful, other than when my dad would make it. There is something about his heavy hand with the tangy lemon, spicy garlic and chilli, and fresh tomatoes that appealed to me. I like to aggressively dress my ful, as it tends to be quite bland and can take a lot of flavour, but I would advise that you add a little bit of everything and keep tasting until you get it just right to your taste.
This dish comes together very quickly, especially when using canned beans, but make sure you buy the plain ones and dress them yourself, as you will find many canned fava beans have already been dressed. You could use dry ones, which need to be soaked overnight, but I find that the canned ones are delicious and faster. The consistency of your ful is up to personal taste, and you can add more of the can's liquid if you want to loosen yours up. If your ful is too runny for your liking, just let it reduce on the stove a bit longer.
Serve this on its own with some hot pitta bread, or as part of a bigger spread. Mint or sage tea are the perfect match to this delicious and filling breakfast that will keep you going all day long, especially in the colder months.
3 cans plain fava beans (450g each)
1 tbsp garlic, mashed into a paste
2-3 tbsp tahini paste
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
Chilli pepper, finely chopped (optional)
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for garnish
1 large tomato, finely chopped
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp cumin
- Empty the contents of all 3 cans into a pot, along with most of the liquid, and heat through on a medium heat. Allow to simmer for a few minutes, then remove some of the liquid and reserve on the side.
- Lower the heat to the lowest heat and begin to roughly mash the beans with a pestle, potato masher, or the back of a wooden spoon. You only want to mash some of them, while leaving some of the beans whole. This is meant to be on the chunky side, not a smooth mixture.
- Add the garlic, tahini paste, lemon juice, olive oil, spices, half of the tomatoes, and the chilli (if using). If you feel the mixture is beginning to dry out, add some of the reserved liquid.
- Taste and adjust seasoning, as well as the texture. Continue to add liquid to reach your desired consistency. It should be thick enough to scoop up with bread, but not too thick. Mix in half of the parsley and remove from the heat.
- Pour into your serving dish and top with the rest of the chopped tomatoes and parsley and add a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with warm pitta bread and a cup of tea and enjoy!