Traditionally made with cumin, garlic and lemon juice, dressed with olive oil and eaten with flatbreads, modern versions include butter, boiled or fried eggs, onions, pastrami, pickled vegetables, tahini and tomatoes.
One of the great ancient foods, ful medames is steeped in Egyptian history. Archaeologists have dated ful medames to the Twelfth Dynasty (4,000 years ago), the Middle Kingdom of Amenemhet I, when this simple bean and bread dish was a stable food of the people of Upper Egypt.
Medames is Coptic for buried, ful for beans, so buried beans. After soaking for 24 hours the beans and sufficient water were placed in a pot that was buried in the hot sand. In later years they were cooked in a special copper pot placed in the dying embers of hot coals.
The variations come from the influences of other food cultures in the region. From Lebanon to the Sudan, embellishments include chilli flakes, cucumbers, curd cheese, olives, red pepper paste and yoghurt.
Fava beans also vary in size, the Egyptian beans are smaller than the varieties in neighbouring countries. In some of these food cultures the beans and their flavourings are served as a dipping sauce.
- 500 g dried fava beans, soaked overnight
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 150 g onions, chopped
- 4 lemons, juice
- 60 g tahini
- 30 ml olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp parsley, chopped
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp cumin seeds, ground
- Salt, large pinch
Boil the beans until they are soft, and most of the cooking liquid has been reduced. Combine tahini, lemon juice, onion, garlic, cumin and seasonings in a bowl, whisk. Reheat the beans, add tahini mixture, mash lightly. Garnish with tomatoes, olive oil and parsley.