Finding information on Iraqi breakfast was actually very simple. I found an article online about breakfast before the 1990 Gulf War and the subsequent embargo. It provided a fantastic list of recipes.
As Iraq is probably the first place wheat was domesticated, it comes as no surprise that bread is a staple of the diet. Other ideas included gaymer, a buffalo cheese sometimes served with date syrup, and kahi, a dish brought to Iraq with Babylonian Jews. It is very closely related to baklava and requires many folded layers of pastry dough. Bigilla is a fava bean dish eaten in northern and central Iraq. I located a variation of this dish called tasbreeb bigilla in The Iraqi Cookbook. It consists of fava beans served with pita bread topped with fried onion and peppermint powder, and is traditionally served on Fridays. We were unable to find peppermint powder specifically so we used crushed dried mint.
- 1 lb fava beans
- 1 packet of pita bread (ours had six pitas)
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- Olive oil
- Dry mint
- Soak fava beans overnight in cold water.
- Cut pita bread into pieces and leave them out overnight so they dry out. (Alternatively, put the bread pieces in an oven at 200 for 30 minutes.)
- Bring the beans and water to a boil at medium heat, and boil them for 45 minutes.
- Add salt and continue to boil for 15 minutes. Make sure there is enough liquid remaining to soak the bread.
- While the beans are cooking, heat oil in a pan, add the onions to the hot oil and fry them until browned.
- Remove the cooked beans from the water.
- Soak the bread pieces in the bean liquid for 1 minute. Then remove them from the water and place them in a big shallow bowl.
- Put the beans on top of the bread and then pour the onions and hot oil over the beans.
- Sprinkle the dry mint to taste over your plate.
This recipes makes a lot of food. We could have easily halved it and still had lots of food. It was suggested to serve this with fried eggs, but we had to leave them out or we would have been eating the leftovers all week!
The pita bread pieces had an interesting texture. Being soaked in the bean juice infused them with flavor. Getting the bread pieces in and out quickly lets the flavor soak in while preventing the bread from becoming soggy.
The fried onions in the oil added lots of taste and the next time I make this I am going to add more onions. The oil itself provides the same flavor enhancement and texture contrast as in the previous breakfast.
In Iraq they add cardamom to the coffee for flavor, which is probably quite good when done properly. We were not paying attention and completely screwed this up—getting the ratio of water to coffee wrong and ending up with a very weak brew. We're now on an 0-for-2 beverage streak, and will have to pay more attention from now on!