Sunday, March 2, 2014

Ful Medames (Fava Bean Salad)


I first tried ful (pronounced "fool") back in December at a Middle Eastern joint in Old Town called Old Jerusalem.  I wanted something light and vegetarian for lunch, and got a really flavorful plate of braised fava beans mixed with traditional Middle Eastern salad ingredients.  The hearty, rich beans cut with the acid of tomatoes and lots of lemon juice was addicting.  

So I've been meaning to make ful for a few months, now, but had a difficult time finding favas at my local grocery store.  They turned up in the market section of my favorite Middle Eastern spot here in Wicker Park, Sultan's Market, so I grabbed them in anticipation of ful in my future.  Most recipes I came across were asking for 24 hours of soaking and braising with vinegar, which adds to the tangy quality of the final product, but the canned beans did the trick just fine doused in plenty of lemon juice.

Ful is a traditional breakfast dish, and I love the idea of hearty beans for breakfast.  I suppose the English caught that boat a long time ago.  Ironically, I was out for brunch this morning at a new Italian place down the street, and ordered "giant braised beans" with poached egg.  It was a brothier plate with crusty toast for soaking up the braising liquid (which included thinly sliced jalapeno).  It did make me wish that 1) I added a bit more stock when cooking the beans to get a spiced broth,  2) I had poached my eggs instead of hard boiled them, and 3) I had amped up the spice with some hot peppers added to the onion/garlic base.

Meanwhile, my culinary trip back to the Middle East reminds me that options for summer travel are narrowing down with Dubai hanging around in the top three.  My desire to return to the Arab world after my stay in Morocco is growing, and I can't imagine not exploring the Middle East.  At the same time, there are other huge gaps in my travel map, so Colombia and China are also frontrunners.  I'm sure, as usual, the decision will come down to whims and airfares.  When Bree and I started traveling at 23 years old I don't think we thought too much about what we wanted to accomplish in travel by 30, but now we say things like "Well, we could totally do that road trip around the UK as old, retired ladies" as we brainstorm.  There's a creeping feeling that we won't be able to abandon work and family for two weeks to globe-trot for our whole lives, and that makes the decision for this summer all the more difficult

Ingredients (makes 4 servings):
  • 1 large can of fava beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil, plus additional for dressing
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock or water (or up do a cup if you want brothier beans)
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 roma tomatoes, large dice
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • hard boiled eggs (optional) 

In a large pan heat the olive oil and cook the onions and garlic until soft and translucent.   Incorporate the spices.  Add the fava beans and stock, then cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes.  Crush up the beans a bit, or to your liking.
Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes and garlic and toss in lemon juice.  Stir gently into the beans.
Serve with additional lemon juice and olive oil drizzled over the top, quartered eggs, and grilled pita.


  1. This looks wonderful! I love me some middle eastern food. I'm so jealous of your travels!!
    I'd love for you to look at my blog:

    1. Thanks, Natalie! Your blog so reminds me that I've been meaning to make a Moroccan chicken dish. The one I had in mind used apricots, but yours with dates looks awesome!

  2. I have seen this dish in hotels (I live in Abu Dhabi) and what I have seen is disgusting brown slop and as for the name Foul, just made me think it would taste horrid. However, I decided to make this for my Lebanese over half as the pictures of the dish look fab. His comment was "it was better than his mum makes"! Says it all really, thank you for sharing this recipe and helping overcome my dread of this dish.

    1. Although I had eaten some fantastic foul before, I was a little worried that it would just photograph like brown slop! I'm glad the photos convinced you to try it out...and that the results were a success!