Bessara is a very simple Middle Eastern soup, fragrant with cumin and garlic and just a touch of chilli. It is traditionally made from dried fava beans which are becoming easier to find – try online or large supermarkets – but you could use spilt peas instead. Both are easy to cook as they need no soaking and they are full of the sustaining goodness you would expect from pulses.
Serves 4-6, freezes well
- 2 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 large onion, finely sliced
- 2 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra for drizzling
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1-2 tsp chilli flakes, taste
- 350g dried fava beans (use yellow split peas if you can’t find fava beans)
- 1.75 litres vegetable stock
- a good handful of chopped coriander leaves
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. In a large heavy-based saucepan, dry fry the cumin seeds for a minute or two, taking care not to burn them. As soon as
you smell their nutty aroma wafting up from the pan, tip into a pestle and mortar and coarsely grind.
2. Add the olive oil to the pan, along with the onion, and sweat for around 15 minutes until softened and lightly caramelised. Add the garlic, dried chilli and half the crushed cumin and fry for a further minute. Reserve the remaining cumin – it gets added at the end for a fresh boost of spice flavour.
3. Tip in the fava beans and pour over the stock. Bring up to the boil then reduce the heat a little and simmer steadily for about an hour or so until the beans are completely soft. Blend to a puree with either a stick blender or a liquidiser, adding a little extra water if it is too thick.
4. Add the remaining cumin along with the coriander and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
5. Pour into food flasks while piping hot, or chill ready for reheating on your walk.
Image: Jason Ingram