Ful Medames

Ful Medames

Here’s a recipe that’s very close to my heart, and in essence it could hardly be simpler.

Ful Medames – pronounced Fool Med-Ammas – is, on the one hand, cooked, dried broad beans, and at the same time, a meal of almost infinite variety.

I became a fan of Ful when I was teaching in Kuwait and there was a Shwarma shop on the short walk between the school and my accommodation, so it was easy to call in and pick up the making of a meal if I was feeling lazy. The standard Chicken Meal was: a rotisserie chicken, a pot of creamy-smooth hummus – none of your lumpy ‘artisan’ hummus in the Middle East thankyousoverymuch – 6 flatbreads and a pot of Ful Medames. Although a warm chicken and hummus flatbread is divine, the pot of Ful was almost more enjoyable because of its simplicity – my desert comfort food, made all the more delicious I suspect because someone else had made it.

Of course, it helps if you like fresh broad beans, aka fava beans, to begin with, but by the same token, their flavour is quite different when dried and subsequently reconstituted. In the UK you can get British dried fava beans, which are small, skinless and a pale creamy colour when dried, but my preference is for the large brown mature beans with their skins intact, both for the added texture and flavour.

You can get fava beans, cooked, in tins, but I’ve never tried them myself. They might do if you just wanted a taster before soaking and cooking a whole batch of dried beans. Your call.

At its simplest, you soak the beans and then simmer them until they are soft and mashable – and that’s it. That is a plain version of Ful Medames, but if you like broad beans, isn’t objectionable. I’ll be the first to admit it’s a pretty dull version too, because the beauty of Ful is how the basic batch of beans can be tweaked and varied by the addition of some very simple ingredients. One batch of dried beans makes enough for five meals for one. Ful Medames is regularly eaten for breakfast in many countries in the Middle East, but it is also ideal for a weekday lunch if you have the means to warm it through at work. So I thought I’d offer suggestions for five different versions, to switch up things for a week’s worth of lunches. For a further twist, each recipe gives quantities for a single serving, so don’t forget to scale it up if you’re planning on serving more than just yourself!

Ful Medames

500g dried broad beans or fava beans

  • Put the ban into a bowl and cover with water to a depth of 5cm above the level of the beans.
  • Leave the beans to soak overnight.
  • Next day, drain the beans and transfer to a large pan.
  • Cover with fresh water.
  • Bring to a boil, cover with a lid, turn the heat down low and simmer until the beans are tender. This should take between 2 and 3 hours, although possibly longer depending on the age of the beans.
  • Check for tenderness after 2 hours, and add a little more water if necessary.
  • When the beans are tender, drain but retain the cooking liquid.
  • Return the beans to the pan and mash whilst hot. I prefer to leave some larger pieces mixed in for texture.
  • Gradually add some of the cooking liquid back into the mashed beans until the mixture resembles porridge. Personally, I like the mixture to be relatively thick and holding its shape on a spoon. If you prefer a more liquid version, add more of the cooking liquid. It is important to get it to the consistency you like before it cools, as it will set firmly when cold. Adding liquid to cold beans runs the risk of it being too sloppy once it’s warmed up again.
  • This is the basic state you need to get your beans to, then you can pack the Ful into plastic boxes and pick one of the serving suggestions below. 500g of dried fava beans will make 5 x 250g portions of prepared Ful.


Ful MedamesKuwaiti Style

I suspect that this is probably the Egyptian style of serving, having been brought to the Gulf countries by the many expatriate workers, but it is the version I was introduced to by the Shwarma Shop and is my favourite.

250g cooked fava beans prepared as above
1 small clove of garlic
1tbs lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil
½ tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil to drizzle
1tbs chopped fresh parsley
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
½ tsp ground sumac

  • Put the beans into a small pan over a low heat to warm.
  • Put the garlic, lemon juice, oil and cumin into a mortar and pound into a paste.
  • Add this mixture to the beans and stir to combined.
  • Allow to simmer together for five minutes.
  • Taste and add salt and pepper to season.
  • When you’re happy with the flavours, spoon into you serving dish and drizzle with a little more olive oil.
  • Sprinkle over the parsley, onion and sumac and serve with warmed flatbreads.

ful2Ful with fresh vegetables

250g cooked Ful beans
2 flavoursome tomatoes, vine-ripened if possible, peeled if liked
1 shallot
1 clove garlic
4 tbs chopped fresh coriander/cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil to drizzle
1tbs chopped fresh parsley
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
½ tsp ground sumac

  • Put the beans into a small pan.
  • Chop the tomatoes, garlic and shallot and add to the pan with the coriander.
  • Simmer over a low heat for 10 minutes or so until the tomatoes have begun to break down and the onions softened.
  • Taste and add salt and pepper to season.
  • When you’re happy with the flavours, spoon into you serving dish and drizzle with a little more olive oil.
  • Sprinkle over the parsley, onion and sumac and serve with warmed flatbreads.

Breakfast FulBreakfast Ful

You don’t have to go to Egypt to enjoy Ful for breakfast, this mix of egg, salad and warm beans is deliciously comforting eaten outside on a cool spring or summer morning.

1 portion of Kuwaiti-style Ful
1 hardboiled egg
1 ripe tomato, diced
A 5cm length of cucumber, diced
1 shallot or spring onion, sliced thinly
2tbs lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil to drizzle
sprig of parsley to garnish

  • Prepare the beans with the Kuwaiti seasonings.
  • Peel the hardboiled egg and slice thinly
  • Dice the tomato and cucumber, slice the onion and toss the salad in the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Spoon the beans into your serving fish and arrange the egg and salad on top.
  • Sprinkle generously with black pepper and serve with warmed flatbreads.

Hot and Cold FulHot and Cold Ful

I do like contrasts in a dish and this version of Ful is a great example. The warm, earthy beans and fresh, cool, juicy tomato, the fiery chilli and chilled, creamy cheese, all set off by crisp, dry flatbreads. You can vary the strength of the chillies from mild de-seeded jalapenos, through fiery birds eyes to “Are ya CRAZY!?” Scotch Bonnets and the like. Similarly with the cheese. Any mild, white cheese is delicious. Labneh (scroll down for the oh-so-simple recipe here) is traditional, but cream cheese, goats cheese and feta are all just as good.

1 portion of either Kuwaiti of Fresh Vegetable Ful
1 chilli of your choosing, sliced thinly
40-50g white cheese of your choosing, diced if applicable
1 fresh, juicy tomato, diced
olive oil to drizzle
¼ tsp sweet paprika
coarse ground black pepper
parsley to garnish

  • Pour the prepared beans into your serving dish.
  • Spoon over your cheese and sprinkle over the chilli.
  • Add the tomato and parsley.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle over the paprika and pepper.
  • Serve with warmed flatbreads.


Ful with HummusFul with Hummus

This is surprisingly substantial. It is a vegetarian version of a Lebanese dish of spiced ground beef served on a bed of hummus. The combination of the creaminess of the chilled hummus and the warm, spiced beans is fantastic. With flatbreads, it is definitely main meal size, unless you reduce the quantities by half.

1 portion of ful beans finished off in any of the preceding ways
100-150g hummus
a few chickpeas to garnish
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp smoked paprika – sweet or fiery, as you prefer
coarse ground black pepper and parsley to garnish

  • Spread the hummus onto your serving dish and mae a hole in the centre.
  • Spoon the prepared beans into the middle of the dish and add the chickpeas and parsley garnish.
  • Sprinkle with the spices and serve with warmed flatbreads.



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