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Vegetarian Broad Bean Dishes from Ancient Lands 

posted on: Feb 6, 2024

By: Habeeb Salloum/Arab America Contributing Writer

Since the dawn of recorded history, broad beans, also known as fava, vicia, Windsor, English dwarf or horse beans have been grown in western Asia and North Africa.  From these lands, through the centuries, they have spread to every corner of the globe.  

Ever since their introduction into Europe, broad beans thrived.  From Roman times until the discovery of America, they were the only edible beans know to the inhabitants of that continent.  In pre-Columbus Europe, this legume, which some have labelled the ‘bean of history’, nourished all strata of society.  It was only after the discovery of the ‘New World’ that it was replaced by newly introduced beans from the Americas.  However, its cultivation did not fade away from the Old World.  Farmers continued to plant it, especially as feed for animals.

In the western hemisphere, after the broad bean seeds had been introduced from Europe, the plant flourished.  Mexico and Brazil became the largest producers.  The high protein and carbohydrate content of this vegetable made it an ideal food for the peasants and labourers in the ‘New World’. In the U.S.A., California, and in Canada, the Maritime provinces are the largest growers.  But, alas!  In both these countries broad beans are not grown for human consumption, rather as feed for animals.

The pods of this historic bean are delicious when picked green and still tender.  Harvested at this stage, the whole pod, including the shell and seed, is tasty and appetizing.  These tender pods are excellent served as snacks or hors d’oeuvres.  In the Arab east, where broad beans are known as fool, rare is an evening banquet or a gourmet meal served without tender delectable fool.

More common than harvesting the broad beans when they are green and tender, is to reap them when they are mature but still green.  The seeds are removed from the shells and are served as appetizers or used as a vegetable in preparing daily meals.  Also, in this form, the shelled beans can be frozen or canned.    

However, in the majority of instances, the beans are allowed to dry on the plant before harvesting.  When fully ripened and dry, broad beans become brown in colour.  In like fashion as chickpeas and lentils or peas, they are marketed in bulk or packaged in plastic bags.

In the Mediterranean world, countless dishes are made with this ‘bean of history’.  With these few recipes from the Arab world, the uninitiated can sample a number of these savoury dishes.

Broad Bean Salad – Salatat Fool

Serves 4

1-can green broad beans, drained (19 oz. 540 mL)

1/4 cup finely chopped green onions

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

  1.  In a serving dish mix all the ingredients well, then serve.  

Broad Beans in Oil – Fooleeyee

Serves 4 to 6 

1/4 cup olive oil 

3 cloves garlic, crushed 

1 large onion, chopped 

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 cup finely chopped coriander (cilantro) 

3 cups shelled fresh broad beans

3 tablespoons lemon juice

  1. Place olive oil in a saucepan, and heat, then add garlic, onion, salt, pepper, allspice and coriander and sauté over medium heat until onions begin to brown.  
  2. Stir in the broad beans, then cover with water and cook over medium heat for approximately 30 minutes or until the broad beans are tender.  
  3. Stir in the lemon juice and cook for a few more minutes, then serve either hot or cold.

Broad Beans of Fez – Fool Fez

Serves 4

2 cups fresh or frozen broad beans

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh coriander leaves 

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

  1. Place all ingredients in a saucepan then cover with water then cook until broad beans are tender.  
  2. Serve hot or cold as appetizer, snack or side dish.

Falafel, an Arabic dish, is spreading like wildfire throughout the world.  In Egypt, it is known as ta’miya, and is one of the country’s national dishes.  It is especially enjoyed by rich and poor, and may appear on the breakfast, lunch or dinner table.

This tasty vegetarian delight is the hamburger of the Middle East and is fast replacing the meat hamburger in many countries of the world.  

Egyptian Ta’miyya 

Makes about 40 patties

4 cups dried broad beans, soaked overnight and drained 

3 large onions, chopped into large pieces 

1 head of garlic, peeled 

1 large bunch parsley, washed and stems removed 

2 hot green hot peppers, seeds removed 

2 teaspoons cumin

4 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

oil for frying

  1. Mix together the broad beans, onions, garlic, parsley and hot pepper then put through a food processor and process until broad beans are very finely ground.
  2. Add cumin, salt, pepper, baking soda and baking powder and process for a further minute, then remove from the processor and form into patties.
  3. In a deep fryer or saucepan heat the oil, then fry the patties over medium-high, turning them over once or twice, until they turn golden brown and crisp on the outside.
  4. Serve patties in sandwiches in 1/2 rounds of Arabic bread in a bed of tossed salad, or as an entrée with tossed salad.

In Egypt fool mudammas is the common breakfast food for 90 percent of the Egyptians.  In the early morning hours, the streets of the cities in the Nile Valley are filled with people who are lined by vendors selling from earthenware pots, tempting fool mudammas.  Although in North America there are no vendors with pots of steaming broad beans, anyone with hardly any effort can produce delicious fool mudammas by following this recipe.

Broad Bean Pottage – Fool Mudammas

Serves 4

1 cup dried broad beans, soaked overnight and drained

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander 

1/2 teaspoon cumin

4 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, crushed

4 hard boiled eggs, shells removed 

2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander (cilantro) 

  1. Place the broad beans in a pot and cover with water, then cover the pot and cook over medium heat until they are very tender, adding more water if necessary.
  2. Drain the broad beans and place in a mixing bowl, then add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin, lemon juice and garlic and mix well until some of the broad beans are broken.
  3. Transfer to 4 soup plates then place an egg in the centre of each plate.  
  4. Sprinkle each plate with the remaining oil, then garnish with the coriander leaves and serve.

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