Moroccan Bissara with fava beans and split peas

Moroccan Bissara with fava beans and split peas

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Bissara is a humble dish, it’s the hillsman’s purée (Jebli, in Moroccan), the poor’s hearthy meal. It’s one of those comforting dishes we’re after in the cold days. It’s a vegetarian/vegan dish which packs a lot of goodness. 

With a pinch of saffron, the dish becomes Tamarraqt as know in the mountainous Rif area
 
Moroccan Bissara with fava beans and split peas

Moroccan Bissara with fava beans and split peas. Credit @Nada Kiffa

Bissara is a Moroccan street food fix

Initially a poor’s man dish, Bissara found its way to the high-end restaurants and to all classes. It’s also one of the top 10 Moroccan street-food recipes you can’t miss.
In his book of “North African cookery”, Arto der Haroutunian wrote this:
[su_quote]”One day a town dweller met a peasant hillsman and asked, ” What would you do , my good man, if you were to become a Sultan?”. The Jebli (hillsman) replied: ‘If I were a Sultan, I would eat every day Bissara’.[/su_quote]
I believe Bissara is also found in Algeria. However, this is not to confuse with Egyptian Foul medames although it bears some resemblances in the garnishing, the type of dried fava bean used is not the same.
In Morocco, Bissara can either be made with dried fava/broad beans or with split green peas (pois cassés). The most common version in the streets is made with 100% fava bean and is served from breakfast to dinner time. Hard-working people start their day with Bissara, which keeps them going for a few hours before the next meal.
In our family, we do make the 2 common versions but we also mix both in one. The other unusual family bissara which is still as old as me is where my family adds carrots (and other vegetables) to the mix. I admit I was a bit difficult as a child and my parents had to work out a few tricks to feed me properly.
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An instant bissara?

I found instant bissara sold in a grocery shop catering for North Africans here in London. I was offered to try it. I have to say that It ended up in the bin. I stick to my made-from-scratch version which is not complicated at all anyway.

The best bissara is the one made over charcoal and left to break down for hours until it’s ready for the morning (ask the hill’s men). But we’re not doing this. I’m afraid we have to settle for the second best: the pot and the hob for a faster approach but yet still great.
To make a 100% green split peas bissara, you won’t need to pre-soak them for long hours. But other than that, you may follow the same recipe, just make sure to adjust the quantity of water as needed to cook it.
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Ingredients

Serves 4 to 6
Prep:2 min - Pre-soaking time: 8 hours- Cooking: 60 min 
  • 200 g of dried shelled fava beans (replace by 1/3 of green split peas and 2/3 of fava beans)
  • 3 to 4 whole cloves of garlic
  • 1 mediun-size yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tsp of salt, adjust to taste
  • Hot water (1 part of beans = at least 4 parts of water)
Serve with
  • A good quality Extra virgin olive oil (unfiltered and cold pressed)
  • Lemon juice
  • A generous dash of paprika
  • A generous dash of ground cumin
  • Cayenne to taste (soudaniya or piment d’Espelette)

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Preparation

If you are buying the beans in vrac, make sure to get rid of any stone or skin in them. Wash them until water is clear. Pre-soak overnight.
Over medium heat, add all the ingredients into a saucepan. Let simmer for a few minutes. You will see some foam on top, just spoon it out. Cover the pot and watch the level of water from time to time.
After 30 minutes of simmering, stir and check the level of water. The beans should be easy to break by now.
Cook for one hour over medium heat while stirring and breaking the beans.
Feel free to add more water if necessary and in this case season.
Once all the beans (and peas) are tender and almost naturally puréed, give them a 3 seconds wizz with a hand blender to homogenise the purée. We do like to keep tiny bits in it though.

Bissara should be neither too thin nor too thick, if it needs more simmering just put it back over low heat to thicken.

Serve warm with a generous drizzle of olive oil, ground cumin, chili to taste, lemon juice and a good bread.

Notes

1- Bissara is served as a starter or as a main dish. Like mentioned earlier, it is also be served as a breakfast. Bissara as a dip in a gathering is another option.

2- Some terminology for you: Tamarakt is the name of the bissara made of split green peas in the Rif mountain. It’s served with more garnishing than anywhere else in Morocco (except in Taza); beside the spices, olive oil and lemon juice, they add freshly chopped chili and onions. Talakhcha is the other name for the fava beans bissara in the South.
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Velouté de légumes – Easy cream of vegetables

 

This cream of vegetables is a family recipe. There is nothing difficult about it and you can adjust it according to your taste, or according to the vegetables you have. It’s a healthy and filling soup-cream. Some family members like it rather soupy, well I like it creamy, which is why it’s called “velouté” by reference to “creamy”.

In Morocco, the same soup is served with finely dice the vegetable and no blending is involved.

My dad always sneaked in a piece of meat for more flavour but also to ensure that I get some proteins. When I started making it, I added a square of kirri soft cream cheese just before blending it (you could replace it with any cream cheese you have). It just adds to its richness.

If you are on diet, it’s the thing for you!
 This cream of vegetables is versatile in taste and in colour depending on the type of vegetables. It might turn green or orange-y or light orange, depending on how much zucchinis or carrots or potatoes you put it. I’ll just give you an idea of what I do, this way, none of the vegetables overpowers the other…

 

This post has a link in Priya’s Healthy soup event.
Ingredients
Serves 4
Prep: 7 min – cooking : 30 min
  • 2 small potatoes
  • 1 big carrot
  • 2 small zucchinis (courgettes)
  • 1 small leek (or ½ a big one)
  • 1 turnip
  • 1 branch of celery,
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 medium-size tomatoes (or 1 tbsp of concentrated)
  • 1 l chicken or vegetables stock
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Finishing touch
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • Coriander
  • Soy sauce

Preparation

Peel and cut all the vegetables into cubes. Cover with chicken stock or vegetable stock.

Over medium heat, let simmer for about 25 min.

When the vegetables are cooked through. Blend the soup with fresh coriander. Do not overblend it either because otherwise, the potato starch will make it look very gooey, not nice!

Bring back to a boil. The velouté has to have a creamy consistency, not runny. So sometimes you may want to reduce the liquid in by letting it simmer for a while.

Sprinkle some ground pepper, add a bit of butter, or a drizzle of olive oil, or a spoon of cream. I usually add a tablespoon of butter and about a tablespoon of olive oil. It’s still healthy because this is for 4 persons.

Before serving, I also add a few drops of soy sauce; it just goes well with it. Try it! I also sneak in 1 square of Kiri cheese…I’m a Kiri lover actually..

Notes

If you are not into creamy-texture type of soups. Just cut the vegetables thin and let them cook. you don’t have to blend them.

The soup may look green depending on the vegetables used. More courgette, leeks, herbs make it look green while more carrots make it look orange…

Add a few leaves of coriander or parsley or even chives before blending and serving the cream of vegetable for a wonderful touch of freshness.


Middle-Eastern lentil soup

 

Shorber A’das or Lentil soup is usually available in Lebanese and Syrian restaurants (In UAE and Qatar at least). It’s seriously one of the best things I’ve tasted as far as Levant cuisine is concerned. It’s simple, it’s healthy and it’s quick to make, one of these 30 minutes recipes you want to keep.
Here is another post for Priya’s healthy soup event.
Ingredients
Serves 6
Prep: 5 min – Cooking: 25 min
  • 1 cup split red lentil (no soaking needed)
  • 1 medium-size peeled potato, in cubes
  • 1 medium-size peeled tomato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium-size onion, chopped
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 l of chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
Serve with
  • Bread croutons (ideally fried pita in little pieces)
  • Lemon juice
  • Ground cumin
Preparation
In a heavy saucepan, add lentils, all the vegetables and garlic. Sprinkle cumin and cover with the chicken stock. Cover and let simmer for about 20 min. the lentils will cook quickly without pre-soaking.
Purée the soup until smooth. Do not over blend it or the starch from the potato will make it look muddy.
Put the soup back over medium heat. Add the olive oil and bring to a boil while stirring.
Serve hot with bread croutons, a sprinkle of cumin and lemon.

Lentils are a great source of fibres and potassium. I need both! I already had 2 bowls today, which brings me to that: when you want to reheat the soup for any reason, you may want to add some water to liquefy it again. Just in case..