What fava beans are good for.


One has to really like fava beans to grow them in their annual veggie garden…. despite being incredibly simple (watch out for the aphids!), they take up a lot of room for a yield that might get you three meals at best. Still, nothing beats the buttery wonder that is the fava… and especially in the Egyptian breakfast-stew Ful.

It occurred to me yesterday that this is a great use of seasonal foods, and after I shelled my basket-harvest of beans I got right to experimenting with a recipe using what I had on hand. The garlic scapes, parsley and beans came out of my yard, and everything else was local (except the olive oil and cumin seed) – which satisfied my inner-locavore greatly. This dish may be prepared and served in a variety of ways (tahini is the actual ingredient in traditional Ful but all I had on hand was almond butter) – but essentially it is a hash based around fava beans cooked in a stew of tomatoes.

Since I make no claim to anything approximating real North African cooking, I will call this one:

Breakfast Beans, Egyptian-style

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seed
8 garlic scapes (or one large onion if you don’t have the scapes)
1 yellow bell pepper
3 field tomatoes (3 cups diced)
2 cups shelled fava beans (1 15 oz can if you don’t have fresh)
1 cup parsley
juice of 1-2 lemons
salt to taste
2 tablespoons almond butter

* Because I made this with fava beans from the garden, I had to do the extra steps of preparing them before starting this recipe. After shelling the beans, drop them in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and plunge them into ice-cold water (to stop them from further cooking). Peel the tough outer shell from the beans to reveal the sweet green bean inside. This is not required as the outer shell is totally edible, but for this dish I would recommend it.

After your fava beans are prepared:

  1. Cut the garlic scapes into small pieces and throw them in a medium-sized pot with the olive oil and cumin seed. Cook until the scapes are softened (or the onion is browned), add diced yellow pepper and cook further.
  2. Add 3 diced field tomatoes and juice of one lemon plus salt to taste. Cook until the tomatoes are easily crushed and mash them around a bit.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of almond butter and spread it around the stew so that it breaks down and makes a nice tomato-almond base.
  4. Add the fava beans and parsley. Cook on medium temperature until everything is reduced and there is only a little liquid left in the pot.

Serve warmed with feta cheese sprinkled on top, or with sliced hard-boiled egg (a low-carb breakfast option), or with pita breads.

This is remarkably good, and I am so pleased to have a batch made up for my breakfasts this week. Sadly, those were my last garden favas and the plants have been pulled up and composted to make way for winter scallions. I’m already looking forward to next year…. and in the meantime I guess I’ll have to go to the dried lima beans in my cupboard when I want to make this dish again.

4 thoughts on “What fava beans are good for.

  1. Definitely different from the typical North American flavours – but I was mighty happy this morning with it and a couple of hard boiled eggs on top. I like to have cooked breakfast before work, and anything I can prepare in advance just makes it that much easier.

    BTW – love the look of your blog!

  2. Mmm, thank you for this one; I really ❤ savoury breakfast soup (especially this cold summer!) If you don't have access to such, I'll have to bring you some dried piri piri peppers, as they'd be a natural fit for your dish.

    It reminds me of Bissara, which I discovered in a Moroccan souk, bubbling in a humongous cauldron, and bowled up lavished with oil, cumin and chilies, indeed at breakfast time. Made it ourselves, lots of times since!

    Here's my recipe (expanded from a tweet version)…

    Bissara: Brown 2 tablespoons garlic in ¼ cup olive oil; add 1 cup soaked dried (or 2 cups fresh) fava beans, 4 cups hot water, 1 cup chopped parsley leaves, and 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, paprika, salt and ground chili flakes. Simmer partly covered for an hour, then puree. Top with olive oil (generously!), and fresh lemon juice, ground cumin, and ground chili flakes to taste.

    Serves 3-4 (and both multiplies and keeps well).

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