This is a dish that takes me back to lazy Fridays (the day of rest in the Middle East) in Damascus, when my father would go out and more often than not, return with enough food to feed a small village (and no, we wouldn’t share). Among the many treats he would bring us was Foul ‘Mdamas along with some fresh flatbreads. As with many “local” dishes, there are innumerable varieties of how it should taste, be made and served. The recipe below is for one of those variations and one that is very close to those Friday brunches I fondly remember.
There are many plant based dishes that I hope to explore that hark back to those hot and dry days in Damascus. As in many cultures, plant based dishes have historically been considered to be for the poor, especially before refrigeration and factory farming of meat and other animal products became the norm, but this view belied the powerhouse of nutrition such dishes provided. Not long ago it was a generally accepted view that ‘complete’ proteins were only sourced from animal products and that the amino acids in such foods were more bioavailable. The latest science and, with it, public perceptions, have since moved on from those assumptions.
Similarly, it was also generally held that in order to maximise the availability of amino acids (those essential compounds that are most commonly referred to as protein) one had to consume them at one sitting. This understanding has also since been disproven. In fact, the human body can actually recycle amino acids, we store them in our intestinal tract and when our body needs them, they are released and reused. Crazy - but efficient! In fact most of the protein that our bodies use is from recycled amino acids.
Luckily, this dish like many “poor man” staples includes the essential amino acids that we need, when eaten with bread. Other “complete” protein (for any nay-sayers) plant based dishes include, for example, hummus and bread and a variety of dishes including both lentils and rice. In addition, these dishes, as is the case also with the one below, contain a large variety of vitamins, phytonutrients and minerals.
This is an interesting article on the subject of protein: http://nutritionstudies.org/get-protein-where/
The Damascene version of this dish that I am replicating would have been made from dried broad beans. This allows for it to be served all year round and makes for a less fibrous skin. The beans used are also on the smaller side which also makes it easier to consume them whole. In this recipe I used freshly podded broad beans as they were available in our weekly veg bag. If not using fresh beans then prepare dried beans or use frozen or canned beans which will work just as well. The beans I had varied in size, but I decided against slipping them out of their skin (a more commonly preferred method for eating freshly podded broad beans) and any tougher outer skins went unnoticed in the final dish, albeit that I don't mind the added texture and fibre.
If you are using a can of beans, go ahead and use all of it, the liquid in which the beans are preserved can replace some of the water in the ingredients list below.
If you prefer to remove the skins, drop the beans into boiling water and remove after 3 minutes, run under cold water and then gently squeeze the beans from the outer skin. Then proceed with the recipe below.
Lemon, olive oil and cumin are the flavours that stand out to me in this dish, and I love them, but you may find the strength of the flavours here overpowering - if you do, then adjust accordingly. I can add lemon to just about anything, Mrs Green likes salt and Little Boy Green remains unsure about cumin but does like an extra drizzle of olive oil. We ate this with lightly toasted wholegrain pitta bread torn into pieces large enough to spoon the foul ‘mdamas and to soak up some of the cooking liquid.
Ingredients: (2 adults as a main)
- 1 1/2 cup/250g freshly podded broad beans (or otherwise, as noted above)
- 1 cup of water
- 1 tbsp bouillon (or substitute 1 cup of veg broth along with water)
- 1 tbsp cumin powder
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 spring onions (green and white parts)
- 3 large tomatoes (600g)
- 1 small bunch of parsley (30g)
- Juice 1 lemon
- Salt, pepper and olive oil to taste
- Dice the garlic (or use a garlic press) and put to one side
- Bring broad beans along with the water, bouillon and cumin to the boil, reduce, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Cooking for this duration will allow for a softer bean, cook for less if you like a bit of crunch.
- Dice the tomatoes and chop the spring onion and add along with the garlic to the cooked beans and simmer for 3 minutes to warm through.
- Finely chop the parsley (leaves and stems)
- Remove from heat and add the parsley and lemon juice, mix well and then season to taste and serve with a drizzle of olive oil.