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Passport & Plate - Egyptian ful

Egypt | Monday, 2 March 2015 | 5 photos


Ingredients
- One 19oz can of faba/fava beans
- One medium onion
- Ground cumin
- Cayenne pepper
- Sea salt
- 1/2 sweet green pepper
- 1/2 medium tomato
- One lemon
- Olive oil
- Pita bread (use a homemade recipe, I prefer whole wheat)
- Parsley

 

How to prepare this recipe
This is a really easy recipe, and is very forgiving for any mistakes or deviations. First, slice up the onion, and then stick them in a pot with some olive oil. Heat them until they're translucent. Take the pot off the heat. Then, empty the can of faba/fava beans into the pot, with the juice. Mash the beans (I use a cocktail muddler). Once mashed, toss in a pinch of sea salt, a large dash of cayenne pepper (depending on your spice tolerance), and a tsp of ground cumin. Again, the recipe is forgiving, so "dashes" and "pinches" is an OK measurement. Then squeeze the whole lemon into the pot, avoiding any seeds. Then grate a pinch of lemon rind. Put in a dash of olive oil, stir, and then put back onto heat until it boils. This would be a good time to bake your pita bread, which only takes a few minutes. Once boiled, take the ful off the heat, and slice up half a sweet green pepper, half a tomato, and a pinch of parsley. Serve the ful into bowls, and garnish with the fresh veggies + tomato. Eat with your hands and enjoy! If you want to add some more fire to your "ful", you can add some more cayenne pepper at this time ;)

 

The story behind this recipe
I was in Egypt in December of 2010, which you may know as being the time when the Arab Spring started. Egypt wasn't a great place to be. Although I was there before the riots started, I left Alexandria the day before there were bombings, and protests were starting in Tahrir Square (Cairo). It was near the end of my trip, and I was broke (paying all the necessary bribes to get around was a costly experience).

I was one of the last tourists to see the Pyramids before the government shut them down for the duration of the Arab Spring. I left the Pyramids, heading to the area around Tahrir Square. I arrived just as the lunch rush was starting for the street vendors. Unbeknownst to them, they would not be able to safely sell their food in a couple days. For, what I believe was the equivalent of $0.20CAD, I got a huge bowl of steamy, stinky, brown mush with some pita bread. It was bereft of colour, and was sticky and hot. I had discovered ful. I had no idea what to do with it. The vendor, motioning with his hands, instructed me to use the pita bread in lieu of cutlery. I ate it. And you know what? It was delicious. Wholesome, spicy, filling, and cheap.

Unfortunately, not being an Arabic speaker, I couldn't get the recipe from the vendor. However, after scouring the internet and speaking with an Egyptian friend back home, I was able to reconstruct the dish with some added fresh vegetables. It's one of my favourite cold-day lunches, taking less than 20 minutes to make. Further, whenever I eat it, I'm reminded of wonderful opportunities I have had, having the luck to be able to see Egypt before it faced such tumultuous times, and the capacity for people to survive and thrive in any circumstance.

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