Bessara is a rustic, hearty soup much beloved in Morocco. The purée of cooked small
dried split fava beans is a specialty of the Rif Mountains, where it’s ladled into bowls
and served with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a pinch of sweet paprika. In the
northern part of the country, bessara is also made using dried green split peas.
The final consistency shouldn’t be silky, but have a bit of texture. The soup is excellent
with Classic Round Bread (page 68) or Black Olive, Walnut, and Onion Bread (page 66),
and some sharp, salt-cured black olives. The mother of a friend in Rabat always serves
her split pea bessara with panfried fresh sardines—another perfect combination.
About 2 cups/450 g dried green split peas
6 garlic cloves
1 tsp ground cumin
1⁄2 tsp sweet paprika, plus more for garnishing
1 pinch cayenne pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
Pour the split peas into a large bowl. Pick over
and remove any stones or debris. Rinse and drain.
In a medium pot over high heat, put the split
peas and garlic. Add 7 cups/1.7 L water, stir, and
bring to a boil. Skim off any foam. Reduce the
heat to low, cover, and cook at a gentle boil until
the split peas are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Remove from the heat, remove the lid, and
let cool slightly, stirring occasionally. Pass the
soup through a food mill. Or purée the soup in
a food processor using quick pulses until it has a
creamy but textured consistency. For soup with
a coarser texture, mash by hand.
Return the soup to the pot and reheat over
medium heat while stirring in the cumin, the B⁄c tsp
paprika, and cayenne pepper. Season with salt. If
the soup is too thin, reduce over medium heat to
the desired consistency.
Ladle into bowls, garnish each with a drizzled
circle of olive oil and a generous pinch of paprika,
and serve.