Bil-Ful – Stewed Broad Beans

29 Mar
Broad beans, shelled and steamed

Broad beans, shelled and steamed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And the trip down memory lane continues. When I was a young girl, my Nanu (meaning “grandfather” in Maltese) was always busy in the vegetable garden. No small feat, given that we lived at Brighton-Le-Sands in Sydney and the sand soil wasn’t very good for such activities. Nevertheless, he managed to grow all manner of things for the dinner table, including broad beans.

My Nana would shell the beans like those in the photo (left) (Photo credit: Wikipedia) and make a kind of tomato sauce / stew / thing which we would eat with pasta, bread and vegetables. When I found this recipe on on Silvias Corner, I knew I was on the right path.

Kosksu is a small pasta that my Nana use to get and put in soups and stews. I can’t get it here, so I just used Fettuccine today. I also altered the recipe a bit from the one on Silvias site, going from memory. Hopefully it wont offend any traditionalists who may be reading!

[  SERVES: 3  |  TIME: 2 days + 60 MIN  |  COST: <$5  ]
[  Joes’ Rating: 3.5/5  |  My Rating:  3/5 |  Brittanys’ Rating:  3/5]


1 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
250 ml vegetable stock
150 grams dried broad beans
1 onion, sliced thinly
handful flat leaf parsley, shredded
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 basil leaves, shredded
1 – 2 tablespoons minced garlic
drizzle of olive oil
pinch bicarbonate of soda
salt and pepper to taste


  1. The dried beans should be washed under running water before being placed in a container with ample water and a pinch of bicarb soda. Check the water after several hours, and top up if needed. Change the water every 24 hours. See photo below.
  2. After two days, the beans will have doubled (or tripled!) in size. Rinse the beans under running water. Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the beans. Cook for 30 – 45 minutes, or until soft. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a frying pan, add the garlic and onion to a little olive oil. Once the onions start to caramelise, add the chopped tomatoes and cook over a medium heat until reduced by one third – approximately 15 – 20 minutes.
  4. Add the herbs and beans and stir well. Increase the heat slightly, add a little stock to thin slightly as needed. Stew for 10 – 15 minutes, or until the beans are tender.
  5. Season and thicken if needed with the tomato paste before serving.


  • The beans went in with the skin on them, resulting in a slight rubbery texture. I remember them being slightly sponge like a kid, but I guess they were fresh, and these are dried. Removing the skins is not an option, as the insides tend to fall apart rapidly. It is an unusual texture, and could take some getting use to.
  • Brittany didn’t enjoy the beans so much and felt there were too many. Joe and I enjoyed the dish, but it was a lot of work. It is a nice alternative for occasions however, and will be made again at some point in the not so distant future.
  • If there is anyone reading who does know authentic Maltese cuisine and can offer any suggestions, please drop me a line! rhianna at nor dot com dot au – ta!
  • Diabetic Note: I am having all sorts of trouble trying to find a diabetic friendly pasta. As you can imagine, my blood glucose levels didn’t like all the carbohydrates in the pasta, so an alternative to this may be to pour it over steamed veggies or with some crusty bread instead of pasta.

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2 responses to “Bil-Ful – Stewed Broad Beans

  1. ric lotfinia

    April 4, 2012 at 5:22 am

    Hi Rhianna, I am enjoying your blog. I am sorry you are having trouble finding a noodle to fit into your diabetic diet. Have you tried my favorite all time noodle the Shirataki Noodle from Japan? They are low-carb, gluten free, great source of fiber, and they do absorb the flavor you cook them with. Normally, I will throw in some soy sauce, mushrooms, and other veggies for a quick and wonderful noodle soup.

    The biggest problem traditionally is finding them locally! Thanks to the Interent I can order them and have them shipped to me.

    • mizrhi

      April 4, 2012 at 6:41 am

      Hi Ric.
      Glad that you have found your way here, am enjoying this blog and most importantly, wrote that comment!! Ill go in search of Shirataki Noodles straight away. They sound ideal. Thank you so much for the hint. (No doubt Ill have to find mail order somewhere, cause I truly doubt my small town will have them. Ill ask a Japanese friend though. She might know where to get them.)
      thanks again, Ric!


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