Moroccan caviar of fresh young broad (fava) beans: El Merfouss

The Moroccan Hanjaklou/Merfouss (not to confuse with the Algerian version which is made of white truffle called Terfas) is a mash of fresh young broad/fava beans with a bit of chermoula and a generous amount of olive oil and lemon. This recipe is very common in the region between Fes, Hyayna, Taza as the soil is very rich especially between Meknes and Hyayna (Fes in the middle).

El Merfouss in its dip version
My auntie owns fields in Hyayna and she grows broad beans. Every time I visit her in March, I'm lucky to be served the best Merfouss one can really eat as she makes it fresh from a fresh bean AND she tops it with an artisanally pressed olive oil. And if you have already been to Meknes and Fez, you will know that the production of olive oil is another big thing in that area.


El Merfouss is a healthy cooked salad, served as a dip as well. We use the whole vegetable including the pod and inner skin as well as they're tender and have concentrated flavours. It can be served cold, warm or at room temperature and most of all, it's easy to make. However, the pods and beans should be as fresh as it can get. In Fez where this recipe is prepared when the broad beans are still young (never end of season), it's about only few hours between harvesting them and cooking them.

I still make Merfous with frozen beans, I just remove the skin and I get their sweetness out.

Broad beans are one of the vegetables we buy by kilos when they are in season as they
 go in many recipes but also get frozen
What's really not easy about this recipe is get hold of fresh young broad/fava beans in order to enjoy the best Merfouss. But hey, we have to find ways and means don't we? My first attempt at growing these beans in a pot was not very successful and they were rather woody in texture. So being in London and mostly buying my tasteless vegetables from main supermarket chains, I started using frozen beans which are rather tastier than the "fresh" ones I find in the market.

Taking care of kilos of broad beans requires help from family members
 but it's worth the effort

Broad/fava beans are a big deal in Morocco, either fresh, less fresh or dried, we love them. They're also so cheap that anyone can afford them. They can constitute a meal on their own.

This batch is ready for freezing. It was picked in the same morning

So let's make El Merfouss. It's so easy!

You could serve merfouss at this stage, but it will rather be a cooked salad than a
caviar, both textures are perfectly fine

Ingredient
Serves 4 (or more)
Prep: 10 min - Cooking: 20 min
  • 500g of young and tender broad beans with outer skin on
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, finely cut
  • About a handful of coriander, finely chopped
  • 2 tbspsof good extra virgin olive oil (unfiltered)
  • 1 or 2 tsps of cumin
  • 1 or 2 tsps of paprika
  • Salt
Serve with
  • Juice of 1 lemon 
  • Olive oil
  • Cayenne (soudaniya)
  • Ground cumin
  • Sweet paprika
Another common texture of Merfouss

Preparation

There is no need to peel the fresh beans from their outer skin. Just remove the stalks by pulling off the sort of thread found on the sides as we do for fresh green beans: cut one end and pull the thread from one side, cut the other end and pull the other thread from the other side.

When the broad beans are fresh, every part of them can be used
 including their little "hats" and outer skin. They taste even better.

Cut them into 2 or 3 bits to speed up the steaming process. Use a couscoussier or a steamer. Place them in the steaming basket along with the equivalent of one clove of garlic and cover them with lemon cuts. Steam for 10 to 15 minutes (after boiling point) or until the beans are tender through. Mash them manually either roughly or completely using the back of a spatula or a manual masher. It is preferable not to use any sort of electrical appliance for this.

Ideally use a pestle and mortar to make make chermoula with the
garlic, coriander and spices before you add it to the pan

In a pan, heat the oil and add in the garlic, coriander and the rest of spices. Sizzle for a few seconds and add in the broad beans mash. Stir and homogenize the mix. Cook for a few minutes, allowing the mash to infuse with the spices. Adjust the seasoning.

Serve warm or cold, with a good drizzle of olive oil and lemon. Sprinkle more cumin, paprika and soudaniya (cayenne) to taste.

El Merfouss may be kept in the fridge for a few days without problem. If you have reduced it to a dip-like texture, Add some water to loosen it and give it 10 seconds in the micrwave before serving.



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