This bright and zesty dish made of fava beans and feta cheese is a fantastic peek into the flavours of Egypt. So light, yet filling, you might have to stop yourself from eating the whole bowlful! It’s a traditional Egyptian breakfast food, but try it as an unusual and memorable appetizer or side salad. (Skip to recipe.)
This month for our Eat the World recipe challenge we travel to Egypt, land of pharoahs and giant pyramids, camels, vast deserts, and antiquities, extraordinary markets, modern cities and ancient cultures.
When researching Egyptian food, I was intrigued by this fava bean and cheese dish because of how different it was from what I thought Egyptian food was like. No heavy spices here, just simple fresh ingredients. And since the fava beans in our garden are ready to pick, I just had to try this unique looking salad – loads of crumbled salty feta cheese offset by the smooth tender texture of the sweet fava beans and the crunch of cucumbers. I had to make it a second time because my family gobbled up the first batch in a flash!
Fava Beans are a Treat
If you’ve got fresh fava beans, from your garden or from the market, or a bag of shelled favas tucked in your freezer, lucky you. (But I’ll let you in on a secret . . . no fava beans – no problem . . . this salad tastes fabulous when made with frozen peas, too!)
Fava beans, also called broad beans, are not like any other podded beans. Their texture is very smooth and when they are small, they have a fresh flavour, almost like young peas. Preparing fresh fava beans takes a little bit of work; they need to be shelled, blanched, and then skinned, but none of these steps is very complicated or laborious, and definitely worth the reward of those sweet, tender beans at the end.
To shell fresh fava beans, just give the big, spongy pods a twist to pop them open, then pick out the beans from inside.
Then drop them into boiling water for a quick blanch.
Their somewhat leathery outer skins will wrinkle up and loosen, making them easy to peel. Just pinch the skin with your fingernail, and slip the bright green beans out out. Doesn’t take but a few minutes.
Making the Dish is a Breeze
Once the beans are peeled, the rest is easy. Toss them with a heap of crumbled feta cheese, diced fresh cucumber, green onion, and dill. Pour over a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, garlic and olive oil, and your delicious salad is ready.
Oh, that is tasty! That salty feta cheese with the sweet beans and fresh cucumber is an unbeatable combination – fresh and bright. Add in the zip of lemon and garlic, with a whisper of dill, and you’ve got summer on a plate.
This unusual salad is a great addition to any meal. Serve it for breakfast, with flatbread to scoop it up like the Egyptians do, set it out as an appetizer for a gathering, or serve it as a salad just as it is or scattered on a bed of crunchy lettuce or zippy arugula. I can eat a big bowl of it myself for lunch.
This is a taste of Egypt I’ll be making often.
* * * * *
Kitchen Frau Notes: If you don’t have fresh or frozen fava beans (broad beans), this recipe also tastes fantastic with tiny sweet peas – see the variation at the end of the recipe.
adapted from ‘Food of Egypt’
- 1½ lbs fresh fava beans/broad beans in the pods (about 24 pods) – or 1 cup/150gms skinned cooked fava beans (thawed if frozen) or see the green pea variation* below
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 small clove garlic
- 2 cups (10oz/280gms) crumbled feta cheese
- 1 small cucumber, cut into small dice (¾ to 1 cup)
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon dill, parsley, or mint, chopped
If using fresh fava beans: shell the fava beans by twisting the pods to break them open and expose the beans. You should have about 1¾ cups of fresh shelled beans with their greyish-green outer skin still on. Bring a small pot of water to a boil, drop in the beans and bring the water back to a boil. Cook the beans for 3 minutes, then drain them and drop them into a bowl of cold water. Skin the beans by puncturing the leathery outer skin of each bean with your fingernail, then tearing it open and slipping out the bright green bean inside. This will only take a few minutes.
Grate the garlic clove into the oil or mince it finely and add it to the oil. Add the lemon juice to the oil and garlic. Allow to marinate for 15 minutes.
While the garlic is marinating, layer the remaining ingredients in a bowl: the feta cheese, fava beans, cucumber, green onion, and herb of choice. Pour over the dressing, and toss gently to combine.
Serve as an appetizer with pita chips or crackers, or serve as a side salad with grilled or roasted meat. You can also serve it on a bed of greens, like peppery arugula or crisp romaine lettuce.
Serves 4 as a main dish salad or 6 as a side salad or appetizer.
*Green Pea and Feta variation: substitute the shelled and skinned fava beans with a heaping cup of frozen petit pois (small sweet peas/sweetlets) that have been defrosted.
بالهنا والشفا (bil-hana wiš-šifa) May you have your meal with gladness and health
Check out all the wonderful Egyptian dishes prepared by fellow Eat the World members and share with #eattheworld. Click here to find out how to join and have fun exploring a country a month in the kitchen with us!
Culinary Adventures with Camilla: Lahma Bil Basal (Egyptian Beef in Onion Sauce)
PalatablePastime: Bedouin Stuffed Grape Leaves
Sneha’s Recipe: Vegan Egyptian Koshari
Literature and Limes: Taameyya
Pandemonium Noshery: Ful Medames
Amy’s Cooking Adventures: Ghorayebah Cookies
The Gingered Whisk: Basbousa Cake Recipe
Kitchen Frau: Egyptian Fava Beans and Feta
A Day in the Life on the Farm: Koshary
Sara’s Tasty Buds: Luqmet el qadi
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