|Features - Farmers and Markets|
|Written by Michelle Collins|
Organic, all-natural ingredients are being blended together to construct a representation of love, health and culture – and it’s happening right in Danvers.
Ragab and Samira Hamdoun moved to Belmont, Massachusetts 20 years ago from Egypt and Lebanon, respectively. The couple shares a love for food as well as the countries they grew up in, and have found their niche to express their most cherished passions using local ingredients and methods passed down from their families.
“I love to cook, and my wife loves to cook, too,” Ragab said. “[Our] product is homemade; handmade. The ingredients are high quality.”
The Hamdouns prepare homemade hummus, baba gannough, and tabouli out of their commercial kitchen in Danvers under the name ‘Samira’s Homemade.’ All of their recipes are made in small batches and from traditional family recipes.
The Hamdouns also make a product that’s unique to the American marketplace: Ful Medammes, the national dish of Egypt made with dried fava beans. Ragab explained that many poor people in Egypt could not afford meat, and Ful Medammes provided them with an inexpensive source of protein. Ful is the staple food in the Egyptian diet, and is known for being very filling – many people in the Middle East eat Ful in the morning to prepare them for a day of fasting during Ramadan.
“It’s been around since the 4th century,” Ragab said.
The dish got its name because “ful” is derived from the Egyptian word for “fava beans,”and “medammes” is Coptic for “buried.” Medammes’ meaning describes the dish’s original cooking method where a sealed pot of water and beans were buried under hot coals.
The Hamdouns started out by making their Lebanese and Egyptian dips for friends, who requested they put their homemade products up for sale. In addition to her job as a faculty assistant at Harvard Law School, Samira also worked at Cambridge’s Formaggio Kitchen back in 2007. While there, Samira approached the owner about selling her homemade hummus; and he obliged. The Hamdoun’s hummus was a hit at Formaggio Kitchen, and shortly thereafter, Ragab quit his job as a social worker to tend to their hummus business full-time. Their hummus varieties now include jalapeño, kalamata olive, garlic and roasted red pepper, and their pita bread is baked and packaged exclusively for them by Helen’s Bakery in Rhode Island.
The baby chickpeas the Hamdouns use are from Lebanon, and most of the additional ingredients needed for each recipe are bought from New England-based businesses, including Russo’s & Sons Inc. in Watertown, and at various local businesses in New Hampshire. The ingredients are mostly organic and all-natural, ensuring each batch is healthy and delicious.
“I’m the only one in the market today that uses extra virgin unfiltered olive oil,” Ragab said. “My product does not have a lot of tahini, [either]; it’s unhealthy.”
Although, today, the Hamdoun’s hummus and Ful Medammes is sold at various locations across the state, the couple is not looking to enter the larger-scale, industrialized food market any time soon.
“We want to keep it small; we’re having fun,” Ragab said.
Ragab and Samira will be handing out samples of their organic, traditional dips in the near future at a variety of local businesses, including the Belmont Farmer’s Market. Upcoming appearances will be updated regularly on their website, so make sure to visit to find out where you can sample and buy the Samira’s Homemade products. As to where they are sold on a regular basis, there is also a list on their website, but several locations include Russo’s in Watertown; Savenor’s Market in Cambridge; and Allandale Farm in Brookline.
Michelle Collins is a freelance food writer based out of Waltham, Massachusetts. She is a regular contributor to The Nashua Telegraph in Nashua, N.H., and her work has also been featured in Edible White Mountains and Parenting New Hampshire Magazines. Outside of print, Michelle also has her own money conscious food blog called The Economical Eater. This is Collins' first post on Local In Season.