I am taking advantage of my stay in Beirut to find out as much as possible about different dishes by asking great cooks around me; I also read cookbooks published in the Arabic language searching for recipes I have never seen before. This one, bessara, was interesting, and nobody around me had heard of it. Then I was chatting with an Egyptian fellow and found out it was from his native Egypt.
Upon reading the list of ingredients, it sounded exactly like a recipe for falafel, except the dough was cooked, not fried; the presentation, with crispy fried onions, was similar to any mujaddara (lentil and rice or bulgur porridge).
Recipe adapted from Mrs. Khadija Saad Basej’ Atayeb Sit Al-Habayeb
INGREDIENTS: 6 servings
2 cups of split fava bean (yellow, peeled fava)
1 bunch of fresh italian parsley, chopped
4 sprigs of mint (or 2 tbsp of dry mint, crumbled to a powder)
5 green onions, chopped fine
1 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
5 garlic cloves, mashed in a mortar with a dash of salt
1 tsp of cumin; 1 tsp of black pepper; salt, to taste
1/2 lemon, juiced (2 tbsp lemon juice)
2 onions (yellow or white), sliced into rings
1/2 cup of olive oil or veg oil
- Place the beans in a large pot and cover with water (about 4 cups or more to cover with room for more water). Bring to a simmer and remove the froth if it appears on the surface. After simmering for 25 minutes, add the herbs and onion and garlic and let the bean simmer some more until they are completely soft (another 30 minutes or so).
- Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the onion rings until browned (over medium-low heat). Remove and drain over paper towels. Transfer the beans to the bowl of a food processor and purée; place back in the pot and add the spices, salt, lemon juice, and a few tablespoons of the oil (left after frying the onions). Heat and stir from time to time until the beans look thick; transfer to a serving platter; garnish the surface with the fried onions and serve at room temperature with radishes and extra green onions or pickles.