From Beirut to London in 100 Dishes

Foul moudamas — and Sunday morning in Beirut

IMG_4438I am trying to remember whether I could hear church bells on Sunday mornings when I was growing up in Beirut.  You certainly should have been able to hear them.  There are churches in downtown not far from our apartment.  DSC_0576_2The muezzin from the mosques was always nearer and more urgent.  But there must have been the sound of bells, too, but I can’t be sure now.  I think they went silent during the war, which after all lasted most of the time I lived in Beirut.  I am just trying to imagine a Sunday morning back then when you could still see the sea from our balcony on the sixth floor — one of those spring mornings when the mountains in the distance on the other side of the bay were still white with snow.  There’d be the faintly maddening chirp of my father’s birds in the big cage.  Now, even on a Sunday, there’s the boom and crash of the endless construction of endless new high rises, but we were spared that then.  The cranes were in the distance on the other side of the Green Line in East Beirut.  Our talent was more for destruction.  One other sound would be the occasional whistle from the pressure cooker in the kitchen where my father would be working on the beans he’d left soaking overnight — always in pursuit of perfection with the simple food and ingredients he put together.  Foul moudamas may have been for the poor, but it still had to be absolutely right.  It was our Sunday breakfast — or more accurately by the time my father had finished, brunch. It’s a staple across the Arab world, but especially in Egypt where it’s pretty much the national dish.  I don’t think I made it when I was in Lebanon.  But when I came to England and made friends who were part of  a strange new sect called vegetarians, I cooked it for them and it went down a storm.  Like many basic, taken for granted dishes in the Arab world, it seems more interesting and exotic as an export.  That probably applies to many of us Lebanese, too.  As for the bells, I think I do remember a whisper of them very occasionally.   Was it from an Orthodox church not that far from us, which had not been destroyed or rendered mute by the war?  Or more likely, was it the bells ringing on the other, almost unreachably foreign side of the Green Line in Christian East Beirut — a tantalising sense borne on the Mediterranean breeze of a life where the windows didn’t seem shuttered like ours but open on a lighter, less burdened world.


200g cooked Lebanese Fava beans
200g cooked Chickpeas
2 Lemons
1 Garlic clove
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tea spoon of salt
2 Tomatoes diced
1/2 Bunch of flat parsley chopped for decoration


Put the fava beans and the chickpeas in a deep pan

Wash with fresh water couple of times, add water to cover the beans, and put the pan on the hob at a high temperature

When the water starts to boil reduce to medium heat, cover and leave to cook for 5 minutes

Meanwhile. prepare the sauce, crush the garlic in a large salad bowl, add the olive oil, the lemon juice, salt, and whisk well

Add the cooked beans and 1 table spoon of the hot water to the sauce

Mix all together, then use a masher to squash the beans slightly

Garnish with chopped parsley leaves and diced tomatoes

Drizzle the olive oil on top and serve hot with Lebanese bread.IMG_4434


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