Ful Medames (Egyptian Fava Beans)

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Okay, let’s start by saying that I am not very good at making pretty hard-boiled eggs. I don’t really see the point in it – making a delicious, but maybe not pretty, hard-boiled egg is 4,235x easier than making a pretty hard-boiled egg. And they taste the same. So it’s just not something I’m going to devote a large part of my life to perfecting, and the eggs above are about the best you’ll ever get from me.

If you’re feeling sleuthy, you could consult the dozens of other pictures on this site with hard-boiled eggs, and you’ll find that none of them are winners. Those bloggers and photographers who have beautiful, perfectly-sliced hard-boiled eggs? They’re cleaning their knife after every slice, so that the yolks don’t stick to the knife. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Anyway, this is Ful Medames, an ancient dish made of mashed fava beans that is generally associated with Egypt. This dish likely predates Islam, meaning that it is thousands of years old. Fava beans, like chickpeas, peas, and lentils, are legumes from the Old World, originating in Southwest Asia about 8,000 years ago. All other beans we know today come from the Americas, and comparatively more recently in human history.

Ful Medames (Gluten-free)

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy

1 lb dried fava beans (unpeeled preferred)
1 tsp salt, more to taste
juice of 1 lemon (¼ cup)
¼ cup olive oil, plus more to garnish
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp black pepper, more to taste
¼ tsp onion powder
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch ground caraway seeds
4 hardboiled eggs, cut into wedges (see note below)
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley to garnish

1. Place the beans in a large mixing bowl, then fill with enough cool water to cover the beans by 3”, then set aside to soak overnight. The following day, drain and gently rinse the beans, then transfer to a stockpot and cover with enough water to cover the beans by 1”. Stir in the salt, then bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and gently simmer until tender, about 2 hours, adding water as needed to keep the beans covered.

2. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid, then return the beans to the stockpot, then stir in the lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and caraway seeds. Using a potato masher or fork, mash the beans so they are halfway mashed, stirring in some of the reserved liquid if the beans become to dry and sticky; the consistency should be loose and spreadable but not watery. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Transfer to a serving dish, then drizzle with more olive oil; don’t be stingy. Serve with hardboiled eggs and garnished with parsley. The dish can be treated like a dip, a salad, or a morning meal.

*** Traditionally, this dish is cooked overnight and served for breakfast. To do so, place the dried beans (do not soak ahead of time) and salt in a stockpot filled with enough water to cover the beans by 3”, then simmer over low heat overnight. The following morning, proceed to Step #2; the beans will be very tender and will require very little mashing.

*** Here is my technique for making hard-boiled eggs: Bring a few quarts of salted water to boil over high heat, gently lower the eggs into the water, and boil for 30 seconds. Cover, reduce heat to low, and gently simmer for 11 minutes. While the eggs simmer, prepare a bowl of ice water. After 11 minutes, immediately transfer to the ice water and cool for 15 minutes before peeling. Older eggs fare best for hard-boiled eggs.


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