I first wrote about broad beans in 2009 and started growing them at home the following year. They are not always found at the supermarket which is why I started growing them. I love broad beans and they are one of the crops that consistently does well in our garden despite the fact that nearby friends and neighbours are often disappointed with their harvest. I think I also love them because of their seasonality. You enjoy them in the garden, then you enjoy eating them for a few weeks and then you look forward to growing and eating them again the following year. This year I extended the pleasure by freezing the end of the harvest and I will be doing this next year. Simply pod and freeze, just like a bought one but way better. I am always disappointed with commercial frozen broad beans and have given up buying them. I am a bit late with this post because you can plant them from late summer/ autumn but there is still time if you get them in, in the next few weeks.
As I said in the earlier post, preparing the beans can be a bit of a faff. You first need to pod them and you always have far fewer beans than you expected. You then need to blanch them and remove the tough grey skins. Fortunately this year I had my small companion on hand, and he really enjoyed sharing the podding. The task progresses much more quickly when there are two of you.
My very favourite broad bean meal is a culmination of the joys of spring – broad beans, peas and asparagus. This is usually the meal I make with the first broad beans of the season. Heat a good glug of your very best olive oil in a heavy pan. I use a Le Creuset shallow casserole, which is perfect for this dish, in spite of the rumour that Le Creuset advises against using olive oil in their products. I cook nearly every meal in this pan, I rarely cook with anything other than olive oil, and my pan is as good as the day I bought it. However, I digress. In a pan similar to this, gently heat your olive oil and add a finely chopped onion, a bunch of finely sliced spring onions, and two cloves finely chopped garlic. Cook them gently over a medium heat until soft but not coloured. I would season with a little salt at this stage. Add 250g freshly podded peas and cook five minutes. Add 250g broad beans, podded, blanched and skinned, a bunch of asparagus steamed and cut into three lengths. Cook everything for another five minutes. Add chopped parsley, snipped chives, chopped basil, a good dollop of butter and some chunks of feta cheese or your favourite goat’s cheese. Season with salt and pepper before serving. You could accompany this dish with fish or chicken but I like to serve it on its own. I feel as if I am eating a bowl of spring. The evenings are getting longer, the days are getting warmer and I have more meals of broad beans to look forward to.
Inspired by Rachel Roddy, I made a salad of steamed new potatoes and podded broad beans dressed with oil, lemon, mint and dill and accompanied it with a pan fried fillet of fish. Broad beans are very popular in Italy and there are all sorts of Italian ideas for a broad bean meal. I usually do a risotto and something with pasta. In the season, whatever I am making, I ask myself, can I add broad beans to this?
I added broad beans to frittata and I discovered an Ottolenghi recipe, in Jerusalem, for a Persian kuku with broad beans and barberries. Infuse a pinch of saffron in 2 tbsp of warm cream for 30 minutes. Steep 25g barberries in a sugar syrup (75ml boiling water, 2 tbsp sugar) for ten minutes. Blanch and skin 300g broad beans.
Sauté a finely chopped onion in a heavy pan oven proof pan for which you have a lid. Add finely chopped garlic and the broad beans for a couple of minutes then set aside. Whisk five eggs in a bowl with 1 tsp flour, ¼ tsp baking powder, finely chopped herbs such as mint and dill, and season. Add the saffron-infused cream and drained barberries. Add the cooled onion and broad bean mix. Wipe the pan clean and heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Pour the egg mixture back into the hot pan, cover with the lid and bake in the oven at 180° for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and bake until the eggs are just set. Rest before serving.
I found a perfect Dish recipe for a farro broad bean and lamb salad which also used both rocket and radishes from the garden. There are so many ideas and when you have exhausted this year’s crop it’s time to plant for the following year. I always look forward to the old favourites and some new ideas. New suggestions are always welcome.