Ful Mudammas, the national dish of Egypt, is also known as ‘the rich man’s breakfast,’ ‘the shopkeeper’s lunch,’ or ‘the poor man’s dinner,’ according to the Cookbook of the Year, "A Mediterranean Feast" by Clifford Wright.
There are different kinds of fava beans, each requiring a different cooking time. Wright says the proper fava bean used for making ‘ful’ is the smaller rounder one the Egyptians call ‘ful hammam,’ or bath fava.
The only time I’d ever eaten ‘fool’ was at the invitation of long-time friend Arlys Koushakjian. She, her parents and her husband’s family had all lived in Egypt, at least for a while. It was a staple in their homes.
Wishing to prepare a special meal for Doug and me, Arlys and Hagop invited us to their home for a Sunday brunch - featuring Fool. It wasn’t just a recipe; it was a ritual.
Arlys, being a modern, working woman, makes Fool using canned fava beans. She uses one can of beans (undrained) for every two people being served, sprinkles in onion and garlic powder, (or finely chopped sweet onion instead of onion powder), olive oil, and lemon or lime juice. All of her amounts are "to taste." Cook until all beans are soft, then, mash. Mash a little, or mash a lot - that’s up to you, too.
A variety of toppings should be made available for garnishing: chopped parsley, scallions, sweet onions, tomatoes, sliced hard-cooked eggs, and extra olive oil. Guests can add the toppings of their choice.
Another suggestion from Arlys - once the fool is prepared, make an "X" shape on the surface, and drizzle some olive oil in its indentation.
Here’s a recipe for Fool Midammis (their spelling variation, not ours!) from the cookbook "Middle Eastern Cooking," a Time-Life publication, that you might like to try.
1 cup dried small fava beans
1 tablespoon dried red lentil
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
8 pitted black olives, Mediterranean type
1. Wash the beans and lentils in a sieve or colander set under cold running water until the water runs clear. Then drain thoroughly.
2. In a heavy 3 to 4 quart saucepan, bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Add the beans and lentils, reduce heat to low and partially cover the pan. Simmer for 3 to 4 hours or until the beans are tender and show no resistance when pressed gently between your fingers.
Check from time to time to make sure that the beans are mosit. If they seem dry, add a few more tablespoons of boiling water. When they are done, there should be almost no liquid left in the pan. Transfer the entire contents of the pan to a bowl and cool to room temperature.
3. In a deep bowl, beat the oil, lemon juice and salt together, using a whisk or a fork.
4. Add the beans and lentils. Mash them gently with a fork, and stir until they absorb most of the dressing.
5. To serve, spread the bean mixture on a platter or individual plates; sprinkle with chopped parsley, and garnish with olives.
This is no April ful's joke: Some people have a rare but serious allergy to fava beans known as favism. It's the result of a genetic disorder that affects mostly males of Middle Eastern, African and Mediterranean ancestry. Reactions appear to occur most often after eating raw beans or inhaling the plant's pollen, but anyone with the predisposition should stay away from fava beans entirely. Check this link to the National Library of Medicine for more info.