broad beans: a stripshow

 

broad beans: fully clothed

Since spring has sprung and broad beans (or fava beans for you Northern Hemisphere types) have been hanging out on the shelves of my veggie shop along with their good mates asparagus and artichoke, I’ve been trying to figure out just what it is about these wide beans that makes them so damn attractive. While regular string beans can rally together to a lovely little salad, and the almost paisley patterned borlotti win the prize for the best looking bean, canellini have to be up there for versatility and in their canned form, convenience. But there’s something about broad beans that gets me more excited than their cousins.

For a while I was thinking it was their short season, the rarity factor which was causing the attraction. And then I was toying with the notion that broad beans were a relative new-comer to my food world. While I had come across them sporadically in restaurants, it wasn’t until I moved into a farm house in the beautiful Barossa Valley in the spring of 2003 that I actually cooked them myself. 

We had been in the house for a few weeks and I remember always thinking what a lovely plant we had growing in the garden with pretty flowers. Until one day I took a closer look and found these gigantic beans camouflaged amongst the leaves. It wasn’t long before I was turning to Stephanie Alexander for some pointers and preparing my very first home grown and cooked broad beans.

I was recounting this tale to my gorgeous girlfriends last week when we were enjoying a mid week girls-night-in on my balcony when it stuck me. The thing about broad beans is that they really are a lot of work but well worth the double peeling. With all those layers that need removing, you could think of them as the strippers of the vegetable world…sexy and nutritious…..all good things.

 

broad beans: in their underwear

 

a girls-night-in balcony dinner**
artichoke risotto
broad bean & baby spinach salad with minted pea dressing
marscapone panna cotta with hazelnut praline.

**note i: for artichoke risotto prepare 6 globe artichokes as per the instructions here but store in water that has had the juice of 1 lemon added rather than oil. Follow the instructions for the truffle risotto here omitting the truffles. Halve the artichokes lengthwise and remove the hairy choke bit. When you start adding stock to the rice, place 6 halves in the simmering stock and finely slice the remaining halves and add to your rice. Continue as per the truffle risotto and serve each bowl of risotto with an artichoke half on top and extra cheese passed separately.

**note ii: for the dessert I set and served the panna cotta in glasses and then topped with hazelnut praline made by substituting hazelnuts for the pistachios in the recipe here.

broad bean & baby spinach salad with minted pea dressing
serves 4-6 as a side salad or 2-3 as a main course

This dressing is fresh, sweet and super versatile. You could serve it as a sauce to go with BBQ haloumi or fish or even a roasted rack of lamb or cut down on the lemon juice and oil and stir through some grated parmesan for a different take on pesto. Lovely spread on crostini or used as a dip for fresh veggies crudites style.

One of the things that I love about this salad is that it works a treat when you feel like serving something a bit more interesting that your garden variety green salad as a side but then is also substantial enough with a little extra cheese to be a meal in its own right.

1kg broad beans, podded to give approx 400g
500g peas, shelled to give approx 150g
1 bunch mint, leaves picked
½ clove garlic
juice & zest 1 lemon
4T extra virgin olive oil
4 handfuls baby spinach, washed & dried
grated parmesan, to serve optional

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Place shelled peas in a strainer and lower them into the water. Blanch for 1 minute then refresh in cold water. Add the single shelled broad beans and cook for 4mins. Drain and refresh in cold water. Peel the inner skin from the broad beans to reveal their lovely bright green flesh.

Place 2/3 of the mint, 2/3 of the peas, garlic and lemon zest in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt. Pound until you have a rough rustic paste. Stir through lemon juice and oil and season to taste.

Place spinach on a serving platter and drizzle over half the dressing. Scatter over broad beans and remaining peas and mint. Drizzle over remaining dressing and grate on a generous serve of parmesan if using.

 

broad beans: naked and ready to eat

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