Growing up beans and pulses featured prominently at our table. We purchased them by the kilo and stored them in large containers. Looking back now, preparing beans was probably my first lesson in balancing flavours; the beans were boiled either with vegetables or alone and then served in a bowl with some of the cooking juices ladled over them. We then each prepared our own plate to taste by adding lemon juice, olive oil, salt and fresh flat-leaf parsley. Everything was roughly mashed and combined with the backs our forks. We always had as a side freshly cut radishes, onion, cucumbers, tomatoes and fresh greens if they were in season. I don’t know if this sounds appealing to anyone outside the east med but I loved it and continue to love it. I used my spoon like a shovel and what escaped my spoon was greedily mopped up with sour dough bread.
It would be remiss of me not to present a simple but beautiful bean dish. I think this is one of my favourite but I will happily keep tasting until I decide for certain. The seasoning can be adjusted to taste and the recipe represents what I think works. As with many dishes from the East Med there are so many variations and it is a joy to experience as many as possible. The beans are quite filling and intense in flavour and so it is often presented as a side or in fact for breakfast. I had them as a small main. The beans when mashed are creamy and earthy and so the toppings are there to balance the flavour. I ate this with pitta bread (it’s what we had in the cupboard) and a very basic undressed salad of kohlrabi, cucumber, spring onions and tomatoes.
(Serves 2 as a light meal)
200g dry fava beans
1 tablespoon of chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 mild chillies
1 small tomato deseeded and finely chopped
2 garlic gloves
2 teaspoons of sumac
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
Juice of 1 lemon
Olive oil to taste
- Soak the beans overnight.
- Rinse the beans and place in a heavy bottomed pot and cover with water. Boil until very soft (20 – 30 minutes). Empty, but retain, some of the water from the beans when they are ready.
- Crush the garlic with some salt.
- Add the garlic to the beans and roughly mash the beans.
- Spoon the beans into large bowls and depending on the consistency, add some of the reserved water. The consistency should be that of a thick textured soup.
- Drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice on top then spoon on the cumin, sumac, tomatoes, chilli and parsley.
- Serve on its own or with bread and a basic salad of kohlrabi, spring onions, tomatoes and cucumber.