Bagela bil Dihin – Middle East Monitor

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Continuing with our breakfast series, we have another delicious offering from Iraq today:  Bagela bil Dihin, which translates literally to “beans in fat”. This definitely sounded intimidating to me, especially because I am not usually a fan of fatty breakfasts or ghee, but I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious this is. The Iraqis definitely know what they are doing in the kitchen, especially when it comes to breakfast. 

In the Middle East, weekend breakfasts are usually served family-style and are more like feasts than just your regular breakfast. People find it funny that I don’t usually eat breakfast, but also love breakfast spreads. I blame this on my Middle Eastern-ness; it is either all or nothing with me, either an elaborate spread, or I’ll just wait for lunch. 

Like many Iraqi dishes, this has a special ingredient unique to Iraqi cuisine, a herb known as butnuge, or betony in English. It is part of the mint family, although it doesn’t taste like fresh or dried mint. It has an earthier and slightly bitter taste that adds such a delicious touch to this dish, unlike anything I’ve tasted before. You could substitute this with dried mint in a pinch, but it is definitely worth trying to find it at your local Middle Eastern store or online. 

The ingredients are pretty simple but, for the best result, it is important to get the correct ones. For the fava beans, the bigger the beans, the better, as they will remain intact when cooking them. As for the bread, it is best if you can find Iraqi bread known as Tannour, traditionally made in a clay oven, but if this is not available, then a flatbread like naan or taboun bread would be good substitutes. As for the eggs, some people like to scramble them and others like to cook them almost like an omelette; I prefer the latter, but this is up to personal choice, as is the way the plate is assembled, with some preferring the eggs over the beans and others the beans over the eggs. In terms of taste, it doesn’t really matter, but I find, like many Middle Eastern recipes, people are passionate about it being just like they had it when growing up. However you decide to stack it, the odds are stacked in favour of you loving this unique and tasty dish. 

Ingredients

Fava beans, canned (400 g)

2 tsp dried betony (or dried mint)

Iraqi bread or any flatbread such as naan

1 Tbsp ghee

2 eggs

Salt and pepper

Garnish

Green onions, finely chopped

½ tsp betony

1 Tbsp ghee

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, heat the can of fava beans, along with the canning liquid. Add 2 tsp of dried betony or dried mint. 
  2. In the serving dish, tear apart the bread into bite-size pieces and pour the fava bean liquid over it. Set aside. 
  3. In a frying pan, melt the ghee. Scramble the eggs in a separate bowl; add the salt and pepper to taste, then pour into the pan. Cook in a layer, flipping it half-way through to cook both sides. 
  4. Slide the cooked egg over the bread. 
  5. Spoon the fava beans over the bread, then garnish with betony and green onions. 
  6. Heat the ghee and pour it immediately and evenly over the dish. Enjoy!

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