Fava Beans – What to do?

I am totally a green bean person. That being said, this week I had to learn about fava beans and why they are so delicious. They are eaten in Egypt’s national dish, Ful Madames. Researching for an Egyptian pot luck dinner I have been invited to, I have discovered that the fava bean (Vicia faba and Faba vulagaris) is also known as the broad bean or English bean.

Fava beans 3are the only beans that have to be shelled and then individually peeled. They are just too labor-intensive to be used a whole lot by restauranteurs. However, due to the increase in Mediterranean cooking in North America, fava beans are becoming more popular.

According to some chefs, fava beans should be served by themselves and simply presented to the diner. To prepare a meal with fava beans, open the pod by nipping one end of it, then pressing it open. You then can pull out the fava beans and dump them into salted boiling water. I tend to cook without much salt, just because my father had to have a salt-free diet when I lived at home, so that’s how I learned how to cook. I think it’s better to add your own level of salt, rather than taking forgranted that every guest you have invited to dinner needs a ton of salt when they eat your cooking.

When you go to buy your fava beans search out the large, plump pods where you can feel the beans inside. You can often find them for sale at farmer’s markets in the summer time.

It is good to know before you invest your dinner preparation time that fava beans should be avoided by anyone taking antidepressants of the MAO-inhibitor type. These beans can cause severe anemia who suffer fom glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, an inherited imbalance.

When cooking your fava beans you should know that they take less time than other fresh beans to cook. They are usually done in 2 to 5 minutes. You can cook them with thyme, mint, or sage to add a unique flavor.

Getting back to my Egyptian pot-luck meal, I decided to learn how to make ful medames, or slow-cooked fava beans. It is a traditional Egyptian dish that is usually cooked overnight so it is ready to eat for breakfast. This simple recipe takes only five minutes to prepare.

2 cups dried fava beans, rinsed and soaked overnight

1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed and soaked overnight



ground cumin

lemon juice

olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

In a heavy-based sauce pan, gently simmer the beans in plenty of water for about 1 1/2 hours, or until they are tender, but not too soft. After the beans are cooked, toss them in olive oil, cumin, and garlic. Finally, add lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Adding in fresh parsley leaves makes it a delightful dish to your dinner table!

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