Thursday, April 7, 2011

A foul breakfast from Syria

I remember being told at school, "Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, and wit is the lowest form of intelligence".  I thought it sounded so debonair, so Oscar Wilde, and liked to roll it around in my mind like a boiled lolly in my mouth.  The truth was I didn't really know what it meant and now I probably agree with the former but not the latter.  I don't know where my love of puns would fit on this scale although I think it would be fairly subterranean.  Anyway, I find the most common transliteration of the Arabic "ful" or broad beans - "foul" - inordinately funny.  These come canned and some tins read "foul medammes" (from mudammas, Arabic for stewed) which of course looks like "foul madams" and is rather amusing.  Well, to me anyway.  Moving right along...

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Ful or dried broad beans are served many different ways across the Arab world, from the more Levantine whole version to thick, rich mashes in Egypt and Sudan, often mixed with red lentils aka masoor dal (masoor from Misr, Arabic for Egypt, hence "Egyptian lentils").  This is a recipe from my friend S who is a Kurd from Syria.  It is a gorgeous, fast, healthy, vegetarian breakfast.

1 425g can broad beans
1/3 cup natural yoghurt
1 Tb (20 mL) tahini
30 mL lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon, juiced)
1 tomato, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
Finely chopped parsley
Olive oil, about 1 Tb

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Buy canned ful from any Middle Eastern-style grocer - these were from Big Trade, the supermarket in Footscray Market, but also try John's Nuts in Paisley Street.  Tip out the liquid quickly but don't drain them fully (fully, LOL), rather, fill the can back up with water so you have about half juice, half water.  Tip into a pot and heat slowly.

Meanwhile, make the sauce by mixing yoghurt, tahini and lemon, beating well to get rid of lumps and seasoning with a little salt.  Incidentally if you add crushed garlic to this, you have the best-ever sauce for felafel wraps.

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Put hot beans in bowl, top with sauce, sprinkle with tomato, parsley and garlic and drizzle olive oil all over.  Eat with pita bread (buy it fresh daily from Masters Fruit & Vegie in Footscray Market or the halal butcher on the corner of Irving and Nicholson).  We had actually eaten all the pita bread the night before - really fresh pita is so delicate and seductive, and really needs no sauce at all - so we made do with this fabulous ciabatta from Blu Cow Deli (made even more fabulous by costing $2.95).

Eating the ful with ciabatta reminded me of once in New York eating a very similar breakfast dish made with marinated chickpeas.  I was at the home of a beautiful Lebanese family and early that cold winter morning, the father went out and returned with a huge bag of bagels.  Eating traditional Jewish bread with an Arab salad, pinching up tangy, garlicky chickpeas with a poppyseed bagel, was just a small expression of a desire for sectarian harmony and a memory that has stayed with me ever since.


  1. Thanks for this recipe! I have eaten a beautiful version of foul medammes at Half Moon Cafe in Coburg and am keen to try making it at home for breakfast.

  2. An Egyptian friend also taught me how to make this but slightly different.

    ...Drain the beans, microwave them for 1 1/2 minutes, mash with fork leaving it still rustic, mix through some chopped tomato, spring onion, garlic,lemon juice, salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil. You can add some boiled water to it if it's too thick, it's meant to be just a tad thinner than refried beans.
    Eat with flat bread :)

    So delicious!

    Thanks for sharing your friends version :)

  3. a very lovely simple recipe. I only wished that I could eat chickpeas.. or beans

  4. Haha, love the bit about sarcasm in the 1st paragraph. I loove puns too!! But when I say them they'd prolly sound v silly or cheesy, hahaha!

  5. Congrats, this looks delicious! I'm wanting to eat this off the monitor screen!

  6. What a tasty but healthy recipe Lauren. You've also just reminded how much I miss New York...still my fav place in the world.

  7. hello! i'm a new follower of yours :)

    i'm just thrilled to see this post for foul medammas. i grew up eating it (we're Palestinian), and now i've gotten my boyfriend totally hooked.

    alwadi - the brand you bought - also makes actual foul medammas rather than beans in brine. in that case, all you'd need to do is rinse the beans, mash them up a bit and toss with olive oil, garlic and lemon.

    thanks for sharing :)


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