A Fool's Cumin
This is a lovely, flavourful and comforting recipe, which reminds me of the evenings of my youth spent on the mountain overlooking Damascus. The city seemed deceptively tranquil from a distance. When I am enjoying this snack I am overcome with optimism, at ease with the world. Now that I am older, I appreciate its nourishing qualities and the strong flavours that I would like my children to also associate with ease, safety and contentment.
I am quite happy to make a meal out of this snack. The texture of the beans makes it satisfying and when dipped into the cumin and salt mixture, the depth of flavour is epically enhanced. You would not think they are just beans. Very moreish. The broth that is served along side the beans is warming and the addition of lemon juice makes it the perfect accompaniment for this snack. The beans are eaten by lightly dipping them in the cumin-salt and then squeezing them out of their skin and into your mouth. In most instances the skin is slightly broken after cooking, making the squeeze a fairly easy process. If not, the technical tip is to just nip a bit off the end. The larger and more mature broad beans that are traditionally used in Damascus are not readily available in our neighbourhood, but our local ethnic shops sell a smaller version that work fine.
Try to get a hold of the large beans if you can, and be sure that whichever size you find that they are dried and not in a can. I repeat. Canned broad beans will not work. While they are perfect for Foul ‘Mdamas, they will be too small and their skins will be too soft for this dish. I cook all of the 500g package of beans and eat them over several days, but you can of course cook less, just adjust the other ingredients. We enjoy them cold and any left over and warmed broth is a welcoming treat in a thermos for parents out in the cold and wind watching over their children as they stomp in mud.
This is a one pot dish making it very easy to prepare AFTER the beans have been soaked for at least 8 hours. Soaking them overnight or for around 12 hours is better, as the long soak reduces the cooking time and ensures that the beans remain firm when cooked through. I don’t change the soaking water, but it can be changed and replaced with the same amount of water just before cooking. As I mentioned above, the leftover cooking liquid from beans is used to make the broth, and a fine, very uncomplicated and gratifying beverage it is.
- 500g dried broad (fava) beans
- 2 litres water
- 2 tbsp cumin powder
- 2 tsp salt
- Lemon juice to taste
- Rinse and then soak beans overnight or for at least 8 hours in a heavy based pot.
- Bring the pot to boil and then cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until beans are tender.
- Mix 1 tbsp of cumin with 1 tsp of salt
- Mix the juice of 1 lemon with 1 tbsp of cumin, 1 tsp of salt and 500ml (2cups) of the cooking liquid. Season to taste with more salt or lemon juice.