In an attempt to collect an Egyptian Diaspora of favorite recipes, I am delighted to host Dr. Samia Spencerat on my blog “Chez Nermine”.
An Egyptian-American who left Egypt in her early twenties, Dr. Spencer spent most of her adult life pursuing an outstanding career as professor of French Language at Auburn College in Alabama. She is also the author of several inspiring anthologies.
In this delicious Fava Bean Dip recipe, Dr. Spencer manages to blend a traditional Egyptian dish (Fava beans) with the influence of Southern cuisine is the US that is loaded with pungent spices and fresh vegetables.
I have known Dr. Spencer since I was a child, and I grew fond of her for good reasons. She is a unique role model of women empowerment to whom I always turn to for inspiration and advice.
The following lines by Dr. Spencer will show you the reasons behind my admiration of this Grande Dame. Enjoy getting to know Samia and savor her delicious recipe.
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Blog Guest: Professor Samia Spencer
Born in cosmopolitan Alexandria, I spent two thirds of my life in the “Loveliest Village on the
Plains,” Auburn, Alabama, in the Deep Southern United States, where I was a Professor of
French at Auburn University.
Although I never cooked when growing up in Egypt, I learned my skill when I had to fend for myself, and very much enjoyed cooking not only for my family, but also for friends, experimenting with various cuisines when hosting large dinner parties.
Although retired with two grown sons who live away from home, I spend most of my time
reading, writing, and traveling‒‒that is before the 2020 pandemic‒‒as academic work continues
to occupy center stage in my life.
Having devoted most of my professional career to the study of women in the French Enlightenment, I have recently focused on Egyptian women, and the history of what I call the “Egyptian Enlightenment,” a period spanning approximately from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century.
Since its publication, my latest anthology, Daughters of the Nile: Egyptian Women Changing Their World (Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2016) has taken the book contributors and myself on tours throughout Egypt, Canada, France, Morocco, Switzerland, the US, and the UK, to speak about the achievement of contemporary Egyptian women pioneers and groundbreakers, and correct outdated and inaccurate clichés.
Being away from home traveling and living in France and Canada nearly six months out of the
year, I now tend to invite friends in a more intimate setting for cocktails and finger foods. While
I usually vary the recipes for every get-together, Fava beans are a must because dipping into that
tasty bowl is a delight of which guests never tire!
Fava beans, or “foul” in Arabic, are the most popular dish in Egypt, the mainstay of the less
fortunate, yet enjoyed by all, young and old, rich and poor, in the country or abroad.
This is a recipe I created which turned out to be one of my favorites for several reasons. It is
very easy to make, does not require unusual or hard to find ingredients, can be prepared a day or
two ahead of time, and served any time of day.
Leftovers will keep for a few days in the fridge. It can be served as a main dish on a breakfast table, an hors d’œuvre at a cocktail party, or an appetizer before dinner. Guests love the unusual taste, and often attempt to guess the fragrant aroma of the spice. It is easy to carry if taken to a party. There has never been a person who did not like it, on the contrary, it generates lots of oohs and aahs!
Samia’s Fava Bean Dip
Serves 6 people
- 1 can plain fava beans (foul), 14-16 oz
- 1 large fresh tomato
- 1 large firm green pepper
- 1 medium onion
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4-1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2-2/3 tsp ground cumin
- Juice of 1 fresh lemon, or more
- Drain liquid from fava bean can, and slightly mash the beans with a fork.
- Chop the tomato and green pepper by hand into small chunks. Chop the onion in a food
- Mix all ingredients, and season with salt, cumin, oil, and lemon juice. Correct the
seasoning to taste. Refrigerate several hours before serving to allow all ingredients to
incorporate well, or a day or two ahead of time.
- Decorate and serve with packaged Scoop Corn Chips, or home-made pita crackers.
- Generally, I prepare and store my own cumin. I buy the whole seeds, roast them in a skillet to
bring out the full fragrance, grind them finely in a coffee grinder, and store them in a tightly
- If you want to avoid using cans, find the instructions to cook dry Fava beans here.