There was once a place called Gaby’s Deli on Charing Cross Road in central London. It was a cheap and friendly place frequented by everyone from students to Charlie Chaplin and actors from nearby theatreland, and it’s also where I first ate ful medames, the dish on which today’s recipe is based – traditionally, it’s a thick stew of broad beans spiced with cumin and garlic and brightened with lemon and herbs, and they’re the sort of beans that would make you feel at home anywhere. Sadly, Gaby’s has since closed and dried fava beans are hard to come by, so here’s a quicker version using tinned borlotti. It’s not quite the same (both the dish and without Gaby’s), but it is just as homely.
Crushed borlotti beans with chopped salad and tahini
The traditional version of this dish is eaten for breakfast, but I prefer it for lunch or dinner.
Prep 10 min
Cook 30 min
Serves 2 for lunch, or 4 as part of a larger spread
For the salad
½ cucumber, deseeded and finely diced
2 medium ripe tomatoes, finely diced
¼ red onion, peeled and very finely diced
2 lemons, juiced, to get 5 tbsp
Fine sea salt
For the beans and tahini
3 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 medium ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 x 400g tins borlotti beans, drained
3 tbsp tahini
Pitta or flatbreads, to serve
Make the chopped salad first, to give it time to marinate. Put the cucumber, tomatoes and red onion in a bowl with three tablespoons of the lemon juice and a quarter-teaspoon of salt, toss to combine and set aside.
Warm two tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan on a medium heat and, once hot, gently fry the garlic for two minutes, just until it begins to colour. Stir in the spices, leave them to sizzle for a minute, then add the tomatoes and half a teaspoon of salt. Cook for three minutes, breaking the tomatoes down with the back of a spoon, then add the beans and half a tin’s of water. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer and leave to cook for 15 minutes, crushing some of the beans a little to thicken the liquor.
While the beans are cooking, make the tahini dressing. Put the tahini in a bowl and whisk in the remaining two tablespoons of lemon juice and a quarter-teaspoon of salt – it will split at first, but don’t worry, it will come back together later. Add a tablespoon of oil and two tablespoons of water, and whisk again until you have a smooth sauce.
When you’re ready to eat, spoon some of the warm beans on to each plate, top with some chopped salad and a good drizzle of tahini sauce, and serve with warm pitta or flatbreads alongside.