Foul Medames , or stew of fava beans, is Egypt’s quintessential vegan breakfast and an unmistakable street food staple. In this blog post, you will learn how to make it from scratch in your slow cooker, at the comfort of your own home.
What is Egyptian foul medames (fava beans)
“Egyptians are happy as long as they have their daily dose of fava beans”, this is a common joke that alludes to the importance of foul medames in the Egyptian life in general, and diet in particular.
Foul medames (fava beans) is a delicious and affordable source of vegan protein, which explains why foul medames is immensely popular and ubiquitous in Egypt. Foul medames (fava beans) street carts are scattered all over big and small cities with adjacent tables where people get to enjoy their customized foul (fava beans) sandwiches.
Historically, fava beans became part of the Egyptian diet during the Greco-Roman period (when Egypt was part of the Roman Empire 332 BCE to 614 CE) or the medieval ages, and not during ancient Egypt. (Source: Rawi magazine, 10th edition).
My early memories of foul medames (Fava Beans)
No one in my lifetime has prepared Foul Madames as well as my “Teta Aida” (teta means grandma in Arabic). She never trusted store-bought stewed fava beans and she made it herself from scratch. Hers was zesty, perfectly seasoned, and so tender. It always came with a luscious velvety sauce.
Everything my grandma Aida cooked, she poured her heart into, so I will pause her for a richly deserved ode.
Anyone who is, or was, fortunate enough to have a loving grandma is among the richest people on earth. The love of a grandma is an infinite well of sweet memories. It is simply unconditional! It doesn’t depend on the grandkids’ good behavior or straight As.
As the French would say, I was cerise sur gateau to my grandma. I am her first grandchild and the first joy in her life after many mournful years, in which she struggled with the sudden loss of her two younger siblings. I was her joy; she was my warmest companion. Though she left us over two decades ago, she remains vividly present in spirit, as my guardian angel and kitchen guru!
How to make foul medames (fava beans) from scratch
My grandma prepared her Fava bean stew from scratch, and I honor this tradition to this day. The only difference is that she used “Damasa” a traditional pear-shaped pot that is created for this purpose, while I use my handy dandy slow cooker/crock pot.
Nowadays, making fava beans can’t be easier. I order raw/dry fava beans online. I soak the beans in cold water overnight. To neutralize the bitterness of fava beans, I add a spoonful of bicarbonate soda. My 7-quart crock pot comfortably accommodates 750 grams of fava beans with ample room to add water (necessary for the cooking process).
Along with the fava beans and water, I add to the crockpot some ingredients to accentuate its vibrancy, aroma, and flavor, such as cloves of garlic, one whole quartered onion, a spoonful of orange lentils, another spoonful of rice, and one big whole tomato quartered, one lemon (not lime) quartered, and finally, a spoonful of ground turmeric.
It takes between 5-6 hours on low in the crock Pot to have a fork tender stew with irresistible aroma. Set your crockpot on low, and check on the beans every two hours to make sure there is enough liquid. If the liquid runs low, add some hot water off the kettle.
When the fava beans are fully cooked and tender, I add the spices and let them impart their flavors for another half an hour.
Bonus: you stew fava beans in big batches, especially if you have a big slow cooker, and then store them in small ziplocks. Freeze them for months and pull out a zip lock each time you are craving something healthy for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Frozen foul medames is excellent freezer food for a breakfast, or brunch, on a whim.
Versatility of Foul medames (stew of fava beans)
Traditionally, Fava beans is served during lent, given its nature as a flavorful and filling dish. It is spiced up with cumin , coriander, salt, pepper, and lemon.
That said, my rendition of Foul Madames has evolved, given my exposure to different cuisines as a peripatetic expat. Sometimes, I puree it using a stick blender to serve it as a frijoles-like appetizer dip along with spicy pita chips.
Other times, I cook it with butter, eggs, and Basturma (Armenian cold cut) as an all-inclusive lunch meal on a lazy Sunday.
To marry it with Shaksuka in one iron skillet, I add it to sizzling olive oil mixed with spiced tomato sauce and crack a few eggs on top of it. My variations on this dish are endless. They all depend on the general mood and occasion.
How to serve foul medames
Foul medames (stew of fava beans) is best served warm on a tray replete with sides of spicy tahini, an assortment of pickles, brine olives, and of course warm pita bread, or even better Aish Baladi (whole wheat Egyptian bread), mint tea, and a convivial company.
Check out more Egyptian vegan recipes
You might also like:
- Ta’amia (Egyptian Falafel)
- Bissara (dip of split fava beans)
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Recipe of “Foul Madames” (Stewed Fava Beans):
For soaking the fava beans:
- 750 grams fava beans
- water (enough to cover the beans)
- 1 tablespoon bicarbonate soda
For cooking the stew
- 2 tablespoons orange lentils
- 2 tablespoons white rice
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
- 1 medium tomato, quartered
- 1 small onion, quartered
- 3-5 gloves of garlic
For seasoning the stew
- 1/4 cup Canola oil or/and olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Cumin
- 1 teaspoon Coriander
- 1 teaspoon Zaatar blend
- 1 teaspoon Sumak
- 1/2 teaspoon Dry Thyme or Oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon Ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon Curry
- 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
- Lemon juice to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Soak the fava beans: Cover the fava beans with enough cold water. Mix in the bicarbonate soda and stir until it is all dissolved. Leave the beans soaked overnight.
- Stew the fava beans: Rinse the fava beans well with cold water and place it in the slow cooker and cover with water: Add the tomato, garlic, onion, lentils, and rice. Set on low for 6:00 hours.
- Season the fava beans: 30 minutes before the cooking time is over, uncover the slow cooker and add the oil and spices and let them impart their flavor.
- Add the dressing: To give a glow and depth of flavor, mix together some extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and add it to the fava beans. This step is optional.
- Serve: it hot with pita bread, Humus or tahini, an assortment of pickles, fresh lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and tabasco sauce.
- The cooking time depends on the size of the beans, and the brand. So prolong the cooking time if necessary until it is fork tender.
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