Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Slow cooked broad beans فول مدمس Ful Medames

Slow cooked broad beans  فول مدمس Ful Medames

I caught up with some friends yesterday morning, one of whom is pregnant.  I love to find out how other people experience their pregnancies and births partly because there is so much that differs between women and even with the one woman’s experiences with multiple pregnancies.  The other part is because human development (and with all animals) is an incredibly amazing process that I can’t help but be enthralled by it.  Anyway back to my pregnant friend.  We were talking about what if any cravings she is having and I was shocked when she said that actually she wanted to know how to make Ful.  She is not Egyptian but has been to Egypt and loved it there so that explains her exposure to this dish.  I thought it was wonderful she has been craving this dish as it is not one that I would have thought of to post.  I did however promise that this would be my next blog.
So, about Ful Medames, Slow cooked broad beans,  فول مدمس 

This is THE national dish in Egypt.  A delightfully tasty dish that is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.  Ful is the Egyptian word for Broad beans (also known as Fava beans), and medames is a word meaning "buried." It refers to the original cooking method, which involved burying a sealed pot of water and beans under hot coals. 

Broad beans, Fava beans, Faba beans

My parents use a special metal pot specifically for cooking Ful ,  (pictured below) and it was filled with the pre -soaked dried beans, covered with water and left to cook over the lowest heat for 6 or 7 hours.  However you could use a normal pot or simply buy canned Broad beans.

Pot for making slow cooked broad beans , فول مدمس , Ful Medames

Ful can be made in advance and can be cooked, cooled then refrigerated for several days or frozen for several months.  Thaw out in the fridge overnight.  Then heat and add the remaining ingredients.

Slow cooked broad beans  فول مدمس Ful Medames

This dish takes me back to Saturday morning breakfasts when my dad would get up early and get fresh bread then make a huge spread of Ful medames, Tameya (falafel), boiled eggs, with feta, pickles, olives, chopped tomatoes and other salad items at the table.  I think about this now and how difficult it is to get up and arrange such a hearty breakfast for my own family (although we have been known to have it for dinner).  

Dried fava or broad beans are typically used.  Leave the beans covered in water to soak overnight. Then drain, add fresh water and boil in a saucepan until lovely and tender which may take several hours.  On the other hand the beans could be boiled in a pressure cooker to reduce the cooking time to 30 or 45minutes although be aware that the beans may break down using this method so it is not ideal.  When cooked drain and remove the flesh from the skin. Alternatively, the skins can be left on and mashed with a fork or as I prefer to do simply blend it all together with a stick blender and then add the remaining ingredients.

Serves 2

¾ can/ 325g or 1 cup cooked broad beans
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ - 1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch pepper
1 teaspoon cumin, or to taste

Remove the broad bean flesh from the skins and mash or puree the flesh with a fork.  Alternatively puree the beans and skins together for a smooth consistency.  And add the oil, garlic, cumin and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper and taste to check that for the balance of flavours, adjusting if necessary.

Slow cooked broad beans  فول مدمس Ful Medames

For a heartier Ful medames you can add ½ a tomato, ½ small onion and ½ small Lebanese cucumber which are all very finely diced.  A boiled egg can also be added and mashed into the beans along with some feta cheese.  If adding these, check the flavour and add more garlic, oil, lemon juice, cumin or salt as required.  Serve with fresh Lebanese bread (By hand, break off some bread and form a scoop by pinching in two edges.  Then use it as a spoon to scoop up the cooked broad beans  فول مدمس Ful Medames!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Mesa-aha, مسقعة, Moussaka, Eggplant Ovenbake

Mesa-aha,  مسقعة, Moussaka, Eggplant Ovenbake

I took the kids to the park this morning for a play date and one of the mothers was talking about a Moussaka that she made, a classic Greek dish.  She said that it had eggplant, meat and béchamel but was not very tasty. I said I was not sure about the taste but that it reminded me of Mesa-aha,  مسقعة, an Eggplant Ovenbake that my mum used to make and which I LOVED eating at home .  Mum would slice the eggplant and salt it then leave it out in the sun for several hours in a colander to drain out the bitter liquid. I remember going out to check on the eggplant slices because I couldn't wait for it to be made so I could eat it.   Oh! So delicious.  This was such a treat for me and I remember coming home from University and on more than one occasion my mum would make me this – my comfort food.  We ate this at home with rice and a salad.

A while back while going through the recipes I had written down trying to replicate of my mother’s home cooking, I thought initially both the eggplant and zucchini dishes (Mesa-aha,  مسقعة, Moussaka, Eggplant Ovenbake) and the Zucchini Ovenbake or Causa bil béchamel) were made the same way.  That is vegetable, meat, vegetable, meat and finally béchamel sauce.  I then decided that the eggplant must have had the béchamel sauce while the zucchini did not.  I made both dishes and photographed them but for some reason I wasn’t sure that this was right either.

I rang my dad (since my mother has passed away and there is no way of asking her) and asked him about the two dishes because I couldn’t shake the feeling something wasn’t right somewhere but I just couldn’t work out what.

He was able to shed some light on my very undefinable problem.  Apparently, while I had béchamel on the eggplant dish my mother didn’t and while I had no béchamel on the zucchini dish my mother did.  Well…that certainly cleared things up but it meant I had to recreate the photos for both dishes.  I now have a photo version with Béchamel for each recipe and truth be told it is great on both.  

Well, I dont know if this is as good as mum's but here is my version (without  béchamel, the way it should be).

Mesa-aha,  مسقعة, Moussaka, Eggplant Ovenbake

1 kg eggplant
2 tablespoons salt
¼ cup/ 60 ml tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion finely chopped
750g minced or ground beef or 500g beef mince and 250g lamb mince
250g tomato puree or Passata sauce
400g can of diced tomatoes
1 tub/140g tomato paste
2 teaspoons mixed spice / allspice / mace
1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs
Salt, pepper to taste
2 cups / 500ml water
¼ cup breadcrumbs

Serves 6

Slice the eggplant in to 1 cm or ½ inch slices. Place the eggplant slices in a colander and salt them liberally, tossing to coat them.  Cover them with a plate that is weighted down by a can or jar. Place the colander in the sink for at least 30 minutes to an hour so that excess moisture and bitterness can be drawn out (or outside sitting in the sun for 5 or 6 hours as my mum used to do). Remove the excess salt off the eggplant then fry, in batches, in oil until golden.  Drain on paper towel.

Sliced eggplant

To make the meat sauce

Heat oil in a large pan then add onion and fry over medium heat until translucent.  Add mince and cook breaking up any lumps until it is browned and almost all the liquid has evaporated.
Add chopped tomato, tomato puree, and tomato paste, herbs and spices then cook for 2 minutes before adding 2 cups water.  Bring it to the boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered until meat is cooked and the liquid has reduced, and almost completely evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.  Taste and add more spice if required.

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas mark 4). 

To assemble

Grease a 20 x 15 cm tray with butter or oil and sprinkle the breadcrumbs over.   Tap the tray to spread the crumbs in a thin layer and remove any excess.  Layer half the zucchini over the base then cover with half the cooked mince.  Repeat with another layer of zucchini and the remainder of the meat.  Spread the béchamel sauce evenly over the top and bake, uncovered, for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Mesa-aha,  مسقعة, Moussaka, Eggplant ovenbake
Mesa-aha,  مسقعة, Moussaka, Eggplant ovenbake

Here was the original photo of the eggplant dish, so creamy and absolutely delicious.  I think that I would very happily make it this way with béchamel again.

Mesa-aha,  مسقعة, Moussaka, Eggplant Ovenbake (with Beshamel)
Mesa-aha,  مسقعة, Moussaka, Eggplant ovenbake