In the Near East, everybody is crazy about fava beans; it’s my mother’s favorite dish. In our family, fava beans were made in a yogurt-based stew with lamb shanks. I grabbed a bag of frozen fava beans from the Palestinian grocer; these are imported from Egypt ( fava beans are a staple food in Egypt).
In Lebanese cuisine, you have three major types of sauces: yogurt-based sauces, tomato-based sauces and tahini-based sauces. This stew is yogurt-based and meatless today.
The yogurt is cooked and stabilized with the help of cornstarch and sometimes eggs. Then, a pesto is added to give the yogurt flavor, usually cilantro pesto. Lastly, you add whatever vegetable or meat that strikes your fancy. Serve with rice.
- 1 1/2 cups of Basmati rice, soaked in fresh water 2 hours
- 3 tablespoons of butter or oil
- 2 teaspoons of turmeric and a squirt of ketchup OR a pinch of saffron
- 1 bag of frozen fava beans
- 1 32-oz container of yogurt
- 3 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch
- 1 egg (optional) or 1 egg white, beaten lightly
- Cilantro pesto: 1 heaping tablespoon of chopped cilantro and 1 heaping tablespoon of mashed garlic
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- olive oil as needed
- salt, pepper as needed
A. Make the cilantro pesto:
- Chop the cilantro leaves as fine as possible. Mash the garlic cloves, cut up, with a little salt.
- Heat some olive oil in a skillet, add the chopped onion and fry till golden, add the mashed garlic and the chopped cilantro. Stir gently for one or two minutes and remove from the heat.
B. Cook the fava beans:
- Follow package directions; usually it calls for boiling salted water and dumping the fava beans in the boiling water for 7 minutes. Drain almost completely, reserving one scant cup of cooking water and mix the fava beans with the cilantro pesto.
C. Cook the yogurt:
- Dump the yogurt in a heavy-bottomed pot. Mix the cornstarch with the cooking fava bean water till smooth. Heat the yogurt over medium-low heat, start stirring in the same direction, and add the cornstarch mixture (and beaten egg if using); when the yogurt starts steaming, keep stirring for one minute and remove from the heat.
- Add the fava beans and pesto mixture. Serve with rice or bread if desired.
D. Cook the rice:
- Drain the rice of its soaking water and place it in a pot; cover with fresh water, at least 2 inches above the surface of the rice.
- Bring to a boil and boil the rice 7 minutes; taste and if it is cooked but still firm it is ready.
- Drain the rice and rinse with fresh tap water.
- In the same pot, melt a few tablespoons of butter (or oil) add some turmeric and ketchup (or saffron), 1/2 cup of water and place the rice. Cover the pot, keep the heat on medium for 10 minutes then lower the heat and steam for 30 minutes.
- Uncover the pot, taste the rice, add some salt and more butter if needed, fluff it and serve.
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