fuhl without favas (MLLA #19)

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summary: recipe for Fuhl made with kidney and romano beans and tahini; fuhl can be made with any dried bean; opposing views on soaking techniques: “The Brilliant Bean” by Sally & Martin Stone vs. “Mediterranean Street Food” by Anissa Helou; cutting back on meat consumption; information about My Legume Love Affair (click on image to see larger views and more photos)

My Legume Love Affair #19: Vegetarian (no eggs)

We are decidedly omniverous. But like so many of our friends and colleagues who have read Michael Pollen’s or Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstalls books, and/or watched food.inc, we can’t help but realize that we must cut back on our meat eating.

Not to mention that beans are far less expensive than meat. (If you’ve been watching the news at all, you’ll be trying to think of ways that you can swing an extra donation to feed the homeless and hungry. Choosing to eat a couple of vegetarian dinners will definitely help.)

We have been replacing some of the meat with beans, cheese or nuts in many of our meat dishes. But we like to eat completely vegetarian dinners too. With vegetarian food, we’ve mostly looked to India for our inspiration. But there are fabulous vegetarian possibilities in Middle Eastern cuisine as well.

fuhl The first time I had fuhl, it was as an appetizer at an Egyptian restaurant. I was in love!! It was so wonderful that I wanted to have fuhl for my main course too. And maybe dessert as well. :-)

I couldn’t believe that everyone wasn’t serving fuhl ALL the time. (Ha. Excuse me for being parochial… because, of course, in some parts of the world, they are serving fuhl all the time…).

We were recently reminded of fuhl while reading Anissa Helou’s wonderful book “Mediterranean Street Food“. She wrote:

Fül is what most Egyptians have for breakfast every day. […] People gather around the cart to eat fül in deep bowls or inside wholewheat pita bread.

Anissa Helou, Mediterranean Street Food, p.34

As I finished reading the passage and gazing longingly at the lovely photo of a fül cart in Cairo, both of us murmurred, “fuhl… let’s have fuhl!” Of course, we’d LOVE it if we could have immediately raced out to a nearby corner to the street vendor selling fuhl. But no. Here in Toronto,

  1. it’s too cold to stand around eating a bowl of fuhl
  2. the street vendors sell hotdogs (bleah) on cotton ball buns (bleah squared) instead of fun things like fuhl with pita bread

Still, fuhl is easy easy easy to make. Even though we didn’t have any fava beans on hand (remind me to get fava beans!), we always have plenty of other dried beans in the house. We decided that we didn’t HAVE to use favas to make fuhl and to use a mixture of romano and kidney beans instead. We immediately washed them and set them aside to soak in lots of cold water until the next day.

The following day, while T was making the fuhl, I made pita (I love to watch each pita puffing up into a sphere as it bakes!!) and we had the most wonderful feast for dinner: fuhl, beet salad, grilled eggplant, fake tabbuleh (made with left-over couscous), coriander leaf, and freshly baked pita.

Oh my. Oh my. Who needs meat?!

Here’s how we made the fuhl:

Fuhl – revisited
based on our recipe for fuhl made with fava beans

  • dried beans (we used kidney and romano)
  • water
  • olive oil
  • garlic, chopped
  • Tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • onion, thinly sliced
  • sea salt
  • lemon juice
  • green onion, fresh mint, fresh coriander leaf, chopped (optional)
  1. On the day before you are going to make Fuhl, sort (to remove stones) and wash the beans well. Place them in a bowl large enough for the beans to triple. Add plenty of cold water – the beans will expand – add a little more water than you think is necessary. Cover the bowl and leave to soak overnight.
  2. The next day, remove any beans that are floating. Drain and rinse the beans. Discard the soaking water. Put the drained beans in a big pot and cover with fresh cold water. DO NOT ADD SALT. Bring to a boil. Immediately turn down to a low simmer. Cover, and simmer gently for one to two hours or until beans are tender. The outer husks will still be firm when the insides are soft. They are done when the insides of the beans are soft.
  3. In a skillet, heat some olive oil. Sauté garlic til it is just turning gold. Set aside.
  4. When the beans are tender, add salt. The salt stops the beans from getting much softer. Drain the beans but reserve the liquid. Rinse the beans in cold water and c Chop coarsely. Use a potato masher to mash them more, adding liquid as needed. Gently stir in fresh lemon juice, tahini, and the garlic and olive oil. Let sit for an hour or so to meld the flavours.
  5. Put the skillet back on the stove and bring up to medium heat. Add a good shot of olive oil to the skillet. Sauté onions til they are just turning gold and crispy. The crispier, the better.
  6. Put the fuhl into a serving bowl. Drizzle with the caramelized onion and olive oil. It’s very nice to have a generous amount of oil. Squeeze lemon juice over top and sprinkle with chopped green onion, mint, coriander leaf (cilantro) if you have them.

Serve at room temperature with pita, grilled eggplant, salad, tomatoes, etc. etc.


» Fava beans are the kind that are traditionally used for making fuhl in the Middle East. Apparently, chickpeas are added to Lebanese fuhl. Because we are children of the universe, we have played fast and loose with what kind of beans to use in our fuhl and have just used whatever dried beans we have on hand. If you do want to use fava beans, make sure you get them from a store that has a high turn-over in stock. We once bought fava beans that were clearly very old – no amount of cooking would soften them. We ended up tossing most of those dried favas onto the compost heap.

» According to Sally and Martin Stone in “The Brilliant Bean“, most dried beans double in volume and weight after being soaked and cooked. Soybeans and chickpeas can triple.

“As a general rule, 1 cup (8oz) of dried beans increases to 2 to 2½ c (1 to 1¼ lb) of cooked beans. One cup of dried beans is usually enough to serve four as a side dish.”

… (1 lb = 453.6 gm)

Canned beans can be used as well. Drain and rinse the beans first. The liquid in canned beans is often a bit stinky, murky, and oversalted.

» Anissa Helou suggests adding a bit of baking soda to the soaking water for the beans and to rinse the beans well before cooking. However, Sally and Martin Stone caution against this: “Do not add baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to the cooking water as some cookbooks recommend. […] Baking soda can actually toughen beans – as does salt – if added to soaking or cooking water. It also destroys some valuable nutrients. […] Baking soda adds so much alkalinity to the water that it affects both flavor and nutrient content adversely. Cell wall hemicelluloses are more soluble in heavily alkaline water. The resulting loss of cell wall material allows nutrients to be leached out of the beans and escape in steam or when the soaking or cooking water is discarded.”

fuhl This was the most wonderful dinner! Next time though, we’ll make real tabbuleh. We used left-over couscous and it’s just a little too soft in texture. Don’t get me wrong; it was quite delicious. But bulgur has a lovely firmness to it.

Also, we’ll make sure we have some harissa on hand. We couldn’t believe that we had finished all of our harissa stash!! And only a few nights earlier too.

My Legume Love Affair #19: Vegetarian (no eggs) - 31January2010My Legume Love Affair (MLLA)
Susan (The Well Seasoned Cook) created this event to celebrate and expand our legume repertoire. She wrote:

Legumes are […] chock full of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, they are one of the natural wonders of the plant kingdom and a staple where meat, fish or dairy are scarce.

This month, EC (Simple Indian Food) is hosting and has simply chosen “vegetarian” as the theme. She wrote:

Only vegetarian recipes are accepted since this is a vegetarian blog (No eggs please- Cheese acceptable). […] Recipes from archives can be accepted ONLY if updated and reposted as current.

The deadline for posting is 31 January 2010.

And yes, there are two prizes being offered!! Random Drawings from the MLLA#19 post will be taken and the prizes will be

  • The Joy of Cooking 2010 Calendar.
  • Hurst Bean Box – A case of six bags of the winner’s choice of Hurst Bean products, suitable for every diet, donated by Hurst Bean. (Due to shipping restrictions, this prize can only be awarded if the winner is a U.S. resident.)

For complete details on how to participate in My Legume Love Affair, please read the following:


Remind me to rave about sumac.

edit: Please see my other post for MLLA#19: chickpea soup with harissa and croutons

2nd edit: The MLLA#19 roundup has been posted. Do take a look.

This entry was posted in crossblogging, food & drink, main course, posts with recipes, PPN; YeastSpotting, MLLA, Bookmarks; T&C, starter, vegetarian on by .

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