by Lindel Hart
I was given my first pressure cooker in the early 1990s and could hardly wait to start cooking in it. My mother cooked roasts and other meat-based dishes in her pressure cooker; she also canned foods that my parents raised in their garden. But as a vegetarian, I hardly knew where to begin. I was living at the time in midtown Manhattan and immediately made a beeline for Barnes and Noble. It was my great fortune to discover Recipes from an Ecological Kitchen by Lorna Sass (retitled and available as Lorna Sass’ Complete Vegetarian Kitchen). You can find a number of her cookbooks on her Amazon Author page. I fell in love with a number of recipes in her book and have used it as a source for lots of great plant-based dishes ever since. Her recipe for Ful Medames is my absolute favorite!
A Little History
Ful Medames is an ancient Egyptian dish usually made with fava beans. Even though I’d never heard of it, I liked the short list of ingredients and the simplicity of the recipe. Since I didn’t have fava beans, I made it with black-eyed peas as Dr. Sass suggested. I immediately fell in love with this dish! It was so fresh-tasting, so clean, so easy to prepare, and it reminded me of a favorite childhood dish that my mother made — soup beans and corn bread. When I was growing up in West Virginia, soup beans were so common that civic organizations had “bean feeds” as fundraising events. My mom made her soup beans with great northern beans and the requisite ham bone, ladling them over slices of buttered corn bread. We topped it off with chopped onions or scallions, ketchup, and pickle relish. My father added horseradish to his.
I offer this Ful Medames variation as an homage to my mother’s soup beans and cornbread. Feel free to make your favorite cornbread or use a crusty peasant loaf to accompany this excellent lunch or dinner entrée.
- 1 1/2 cups small dried black-eyed peas, picked over and rinsed
- 2 cups water (approximately)
- 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 to 3 Tbsp fruity olive oil
- 1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, tightly packed
- 2 to 3 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 1/4 tsp sea salt, or to taste
Prepare your beans!
1. Rinse your beans thoroughly in a colander and pick through them, discarding any inferior-looking beans.
2. Place your beans in a large bowl and cover with water. Let them soak overnight or 8 to 12 hours before you plan to cook them.
Because the beans absorb water, they will plump up. I usually cover the bowl with a plate during the soaking process.
Cook your beans!
3. Drain and rinse the beans again before placing them in the pressure cooker with enough water to cover. Add the sliced garlic and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
4. Lock the lid in place. For stovetop pressure cookers, place cooker on high heat and bring to high pressure. Lower heat enough to maintain high pressure for 4 minutes. For electric cookers/multi-cookers, set to high pressure for 4 minutes.
Allow pressure to come down for 10 minutes naturally, then quick-release remaining pressure. Taste a bean for tenderness. If the beans are not quite tender, put the lid back on and let them continue to cook in residual heat until they are done.
Add remaining ingredients
5. Stir in the parsley, lemon juice, remaining olive oil, and salt. Taste and make any adjustments as necessary. There should be a lemony freshness to the beans, so add a little more lemon juice, if necessary.
Ladle the beans into bowls and serve with either some freshly baked cornbread or a nice crusty bread.
I like to place slices of buttered cornbread in the bowl, and ladle the beans and broth over the bread, just like my mom did.
You can add toppings like chopped onions or scallions, a drizzle of ketchup, some pickle relish, horseradish, or your favorite condiments.
If you don’t have a pressure cooker or multi-cooker, you can just as easily prepare this dish in a regular pot on your stove. It just takes longer. Place the beans, garlic, and oil in a heavy pot with enough water to cover the beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cover. Cook until the beans are tender, which could take anywhere from 75 to 90 minutes. Occasionally check the beans, and add water, if necessary. Once the beans are cooked, add the remaining ingredients and adjust seasonings to taste.
You may be able to cook the black-eyed peas without soaking them, but I almost always soak. If the beans are old, they may take longer to cook.
By the way, the black-eyed pea is not a pea but a type of bean. It originated in West Africa but is cultivated around the world.