Moroccan Memories and Bessara Soup

I was gathering together some recipes this morning for my moorish salad demo at the wonderful Borough Market and it got me reminiscing and poring over a few pictures from last year’s trip to Tangiers. Pete took some beautiful photographs (I can only claim to be author of half a dozen) and they do set the scene for the unbelievably simple, nutritious and tasty dip/soup that I’m cooking today.

I love the contrast of these first two sets of photographs. First you have the calm, relative coolness of the courtyards and back streets of the casbah and then the bustle of the souk with all it’s smells and vivid colours.

We stayed in a fab little hotel, high in the casbah , looking out over the Straits of Gibraltar – The Tangerina Hotel . The rooftop terrace was a fabulous place to chill and to eat simple and very delicious food. One evening we had a silky smooth bowl of bessara, made with split fava beans or peas –  it’s a classic all over Morocco, often eaten as a breakfast dish and sometimes served a little thicker as a dip with good bread.

I’m making bessara back at home too, it’s real comfort food, just great when you’re yearning for something healthy and nourishing, and I’ve been over indulging rather too much of late (Bristol has been a never ending food fest’ but that’s the next post). My split fava beans (dried broad beans) come from a fabulous British company called Hodmedods who sell our native beans (we’ve exported vast quantities of our fava beans to Egypt and the Middle East for years ). I love to use favas for falafel too. You can find these English beans in lots of health food shops nowadays.

Bessara  – Split fava or split pea soup. (about 6 bowls)

300 g split fava beans or split peas
3 tbsp olive oil
2 0nions, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds, slightly crushed
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
Juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon
A good swirl of extra virgin olive oil
A good pinch of chilli flakes or smoked hot paprika
A few sprigs of fresh coriander, chopped

It’s a good idea, but not vital, to soak the split beans or peas in plenty cold water for a few hours – you’ll cut the cooking time considerably.

Take a large saucepan and fry off the onion and carrot until soft and beginning to brown and sweeten. Now add the garlic and cumin and fry until you’re enveloped in amazing smells.

Drain the beans and add to the pan, cover with 10 cm of water. Simmer for anything between 30 minutes to an hour until the beans or peas have pretty much collapsed.

Take a stick blender and whizz until smooth. Season with salt and lemon juice.

Serve the soup with a good swirl of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of chilli or paprika and a sprinkling of fresh of coriander.

Jenny Chandler's fava bean soup

The soup should be velvety , about the thickness of double cream so you may need to add some liquid to loosen the texture.
Bessara can also be left thicker as a dip, rather like hummous or even served as a purée to use as a side dish in a mashed potatoey style.

3 thoughts on “Moroccan Memories and Bessara Soup

  1. Pingback: Bonkers With The Beans | The Botanical Baker

  2. tea in tangiers

    I have just stumbled across your blog while looking for a recipe for bessara – and found this lovely post on Tangiers – having had a bowl of bessara at casabarata yesterday I have included a link to your blog and recipe on todays post and look forward to reading more.



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