Fava is one of those dishes that you either love or you don’t. It’s really that clear.
Personally, I love it: there’s something about the consistency, soft and melting-in-your-mouth, that I find irresistible but the family isn’t that keen.
But generally speaking, it’s a popular dish here and nowhere more so, funnily enough, than on the tea table! But it can also be part of the rakı spread in the evening and of course, as a lunchtime dish too. I know that we foreigners like to take it along when we are asked to ‘bring a dish’.
I’ve described Turkish tea parties before. They can be killer affairs with a selection of not only sweet goodies but at least three savoury ones too. Fava, along with mercimek köftesi and kısır, are very common and so is börek.
My neighbour invited me and all the other neighbours round just before the holidays and sure enough, she had made fava. She had made it beautifully using a silicone mould – she lent it to me when I made it recently as you can see in the picture! In previous times, the shape was much less adventurous: round or square but the arrival on the market of these new moulds has been inspiring! I must say, the chilled fava slipped out without any difficulty whatsoever but my neighbour had insisted on oiling each and every crevice individually …. just in case.
I had always thought that the dried fava beans had to be soaked overnight before cooking but apparently not. So it couldn’t be easier: just put them in a saucepan with 1 onion, quartered, the sugar and salt, cover with water and add the olive oil, and boil gently. Yes, this does take a little time: approximately one and three quarter hours, but it’s painless. However, it’s best if you leave the dish in the fridge to set overnight.
So I don’t know how many times over the years, friends and Turkish cousins have passed on their wisdom re how to prepare fava. The trouble is, invariably, they don’t measure: it’s all göz kararı or spoonfuls of this, a pinch of that. Actually, the real Turkish way of measuring is in glasses: a water glass = 1 cup and a tea glass = ½ cup. But this time, I tried to pin down the amounts and times and it was successful.
- Wash the fava beans in cold water and place in a large saucepan with the onion, sugar, salt, and olive oil. Cover the beans with 2 fingers of water and bring to the boil.
- Lower the heat and continue cooking, checking from time to time to make sure the beans are not sticking. This will take approx 1 hr 45 minutes. The beans will become thoroughly soft and mushy.
- Using a stick blender, blend everything including the onion, to a smooth purée. Add the chopped dill at this point if desired.
- Pour into the prepared mould. NB it isn’t always necessary to turn the fava out: it can be left in a pyrex dish and cut into squares in the dish.
- Garnish with more chopped fresh dill.
- Sprinkle with a little chopped red onion if using.
- Leave to set in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. Turn out just before serving.