Egyptian Bissara

Egyptian bissara, topped with fried onion and served with pita.

Bissara, also known as Bessara and Besarah (Arabic: “بصارة“) is a soup and a bean dip in North African cuisine, prepared with dried, puréed broad beans as a primary ingredient. Additional ingredients include garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, hot red pepper, cumin, and salt. Bissara is sometimes prepared using split peas or chickpeas. In Egypt, bissara also includes herbs or leafy greens—particularly parsleymintdillspinach, or molokhiya, though the latter is more commonly added by Egyptian expatriates in Palestine—and is eaten with bread as a dip. It is typically inexpensive, and has been described as a pauper’s dish.

A few weeks ago I posted about the Moroccan version of Bissara. In Egypt they add lots of greens and herbs, and treat it as a dip instead of a soup. With more layers of flavor from the herbs, tons of garlic, and onion on top of onion I think I prefer it to the Moroccan verison. If you aren’t into strong flavors, try the other one first.

Fava beans grow with a thick, inedible, skin. I hear that it’s fairly easy to remove if you boil them briefly, but I have chosen to save time and buy peeled beans.*

I don’t know that roasted garlic is at all traditional, but it showed up in a couple recipes I looked at and sounded delicious. I cut the top off two whole heads of garlic to expost the tops of the cloves, drizzled with a bit of olive oil and a sprinkel of salt, wrapped them in aluminum foil and baked in my toaster over at 375F for about an hour. Once they had cooled a little I simply squezed the pulp out of the skin. Two average sized heads yeilded me 1/4 cup.

The fried onion topping is probably my favorite part of the dish. They are fairly dry and crunchy, but once they absorb some moisture from the dip they disolve into delicious caramelized onion goodness. It’s not quite deep frying, but I used close to a cup of oil, and it took about 30 minutes to acheive this deliciousness.

Egyptian Bissara

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1:20
Total: 1:40 plus soaking time

475 grams peeled, split fava beans
10 cups water
2 large onions, peeled and chopped
7 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 bunch dill, chopped
1 bunch spearmint, chopped

2 medium onion
About 1 cup of oil for frying

¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup roasted garlic
1 ½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 ½ teaspoon ground coriander
⅓ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne

1 ¾ Tablespoon dried mint
2 ½ teaspoon olive oil (garnish)
3 black olives (garnish)

Soak fava beans in cold water overnight. Drain beans. Place in a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. When it foams up, drain the water and add 10 C fresh water, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer for 25 minutes. Add two large onions, garlic and fresh herbs. Don’t stir them in, just let them cook on top as the beans continue to simmer for another 30 minutes or so, until beans are very soft.

Meanwhile, cut two medium onions into rings or half moon slices. Fry in plenty of oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

When beans are tender, drain them, reserving a few cups of liquid, and puree the bean mixture with a stick blender or food processor, adding only enough of the reserved cooking liquid to reach desired consistency. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add roasted garlic pulp and spices and sauté briefly. Add bean puree and sauté for a few more minutes until desired consistency is reached.

Garnish with fried onion and serve with green onions and pita bread.

Egyptian Bissara, fried onion, pita and a green onion.

*I receive no compensation for mentioning this product.

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