Berlin restaurant inspiration- Azzam

Azzam holds a special place in my heart for introducing me to the delights of Palestinian food. Creamy musabaha, zingy foul and divine gingerbread falafel. (They may not agree about the gingerbread but I taste it, I swear.)

The guys there are super friendly and it's a popular spot among locals with Arabic roots and Hipsters alike to come, sit back and enjoy some beautiful, homemade houmous.

Watching them in action, making the houmous and other Middle Eastern classics, simply with a pestle and mortar, is mesmerizing and invoked in me the inspiration to try and recreate some dishes at home.

Houmous is something I have been making myself for years, but musabaha and foul was unchartered territory, so I decided to give it  go. I bought all my Azzam reenactment ingredients from their supermarket next door to keep it as authentic as possible but any Turkish or Arabic store will have the essentials.

Musabaha, (there are variations of the spelling, this is how they spell it at Azzam), is basically a deconstructed hummus. Lashings of tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, garlic and of course chickpeas. The main difference I can see, is that it is served warm and the majority of the chickpeas are left whole.

Foul is fava beans cooked and then tossed with garlic, lemon juice, vinegar , cumin and lots of fresh parsley.

 the Original at Azzam

the Original at Azzam

These dishes are a perfect match as the musabaha is a creamy and rich concoction due to the tahini and the fresh, tangy foul cuts through this perfectly. A ton of hot- pink pickled turnips, fresh tomato, raw onion (you'll regret it later but that's part of the experience) and fragrant mint with some good bread, are essential accompaniments. Flatbread is the popular choice, but I found some darling little wholemeal pittas studded with sesame seeds that I couldn't resist.

Typically a breakfast dish, for me it also makes a perfect dinner or next day lunch.

I have used canned beans as I decided to make this meal the same morning that I cooked it, but I am sure that both dish would be improved, both in taste and authenticity, if the beans were soaked overnight etc and then cooked. However the canned goods ticked the boxes for me. This was pleasingly quick and easy and though not identical, tasted as good as the real thing.

Shopping List- serves 4

1x large can of chickpeas
1x small can of fava beans
fresh parsley
fresh mint
white wine vinegar
pickles such as turnip and gherkins (from Turkish grocers)
wholemeal pitta bread or flatbread
white onion

As this was a dive into the unknown for me, I tried to be as organised as possible and began with some serious prep. This involved mincing 2 cloves of garlic, squeezing the juice of two lemons and slicing the tomatoes and pickles that will be served alongside the dishes.

I then cleaned the mint and left in bunches to be served later. Quarter the white onion, this will also be served like the tomatoes and pickles.

Set your bread aside ready to serve.

Now to assemble the ingredients for cooking.

Pour into a small bowl 2 tblsp of lemon juice and 1tblsp of white wine vinegar and a little parsley. Set aside for the foul later.

Pour about 30 grams of tahini into a bowl, add a little water and good glug of olive oil, 1/2 clove of the minced garlic, salt, tbsp of lemon and mix. Set aside for the musabaha.

To begin, pour the can of chickpeas into one saucepan and the fava beans into another with the liquid they come in the can with. Start to heat the chickpeas first until they are completely warmed through. You do not need to cook for too long if you are like myself, using the canned goods. If you have been organised and have soaked and boiled your legumes from scratch, then just heat in water accordingly.

Once warmed through, strain the chickpeas, reserving the hot liquid in a large bowl. Put just over half of the chickpeas back into this hot liquid and cover to keep warm.

With the other chickpeas mash into a regular hummus, I have to admit, I used a stick blender but to be truly authentic, use a pestle and mortar. To your chickpeas, add a little tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, the other minced garlic half and cumin. Check for seasoning.

For the next steps you need to make good of both your hands and work on the two dishes at the same time.

Place the hummus into a large bowl.

Drain the warm chickpeas and pour them on top of the hummus, holding a tablespoons worth back.

Pour over the tahini mixture you made earlier, a little of the hot chickpea water and mix. Finally add the remaining chickpeas, a generous sprinkle of parsley, a healthy glug of olive oil and dusting of paprika over the top.

Now get the fava beans on and warm the beans through as you did the chickpeas.

Once completely warmed through, drain and toss with the remaining clove of minced garlic, cumin and olive oil. Pour in the lemon juice and vinegar mixture and stir. Add extra parsley and this is ready to serve.

Serve both dishes with the bread, pickles, mint and fresh vegetables.

Try the original at Azzam, Sonnenallee 54, 12045 Berlin