There is a beautiful Tuscan Spring time tradition of serving Broad Beans with a fresh pecorino cheese. The cheese is sliced and served with the beans. If the beans are young, the guests get to pod their own as they eat them. There is a saltiness in the fresh pecorino that matches the sweetness of the broad beans. And the crispy texture of the beans with the melting softness of the pecorino is divine.
Late Winter comes and we begin to look forward to Spring. However the weather gods have other ideas, plunging us into the coldest weather of the winter, stormy and wet, and very very cold.
We really did fall in love with dried broad beans this year. After a hiccup at the beginning – we really didn’t know a lot about how to handle these large beauties – we have settled into a routine of using them every couple of weeks. Totally delicious.
The smaller, peeled dried fava beans are easier to use, but if you can’t find them, use the larger (gigantic) unpeeled ones. The peeled dried broad beans are quite small, whereas the unpeeled ones are large beans. Soak the large ones overnight, then pop them out of their peels before cooking. If they don’t come out of the skins easily, try soaking them in boiling water for 20 – 30 mins. They should come off easily then. I like to peel them in front of the TV the night before I am using them. It makes this meditative task very easy.
This recipe doesn’t saute the onions and celery, but rather pops them into the pot with the beans and the stock. In Greece it is believed that sauteing them before hand makes the dish heavier, and if you think about it, it is an excellent observation. I like to keep this soup lighter, but by all means saute off the aromatics beforehand if you wish.
A quick, healthy snack.
I am here to tell you that these are delicious. A great snack, quickly prepared, is pan fried broad beans. You can use peas or edamame as well. You can even use peas and edamame in their pods. Simply suck them out of the shell between your teeth after cooking.
Broad beans, once out of their pod, still have a thick, tough coat on each bean. Removing this improves their flavour enormously. Yes, it is a little fiddly, but worth the effort. Take a small sharp knife and make a slit in the side of the bean, then coax the coat off. Sometimes they just pop out. You are left with tender, vibrant green beans.
Dried Broad Beans are a great substitute for fresh broad beans once their season has finished. They don’t exactly taste like the fresh version, but are pretty good in their own right and make the smoooooothest divine puree.
The downside is that they need to be peeled before cooking. They say that dried, peeled Broad Beans (or Fava Beans) are available, even split ones, but I have been unsuccessful in my search for them. Thus it is necessary to soak the dried beans for 12 hours, then slip the peels from them, and only then put them on to cook. Not every recipe you see will tell you this trick – it seems to be rather a secret.
This recipe can be used for older fresh broad beans – the ones that have lost their green freshness and are now rather white, and for the dried variety. Either way, the individual beans will have to be peeled.
I admit it. I have had an aversion to broad beans since childhood. We seem to have grown them by the bushel as I was growing up, and we ate them with every meal, often in their pods, boiled and boiled and boiled. Over the ensuing years I have tried to fall in love with them. I have even grown them myself. But that taste, and the childhood associations would not go away.
This year, with a wonderful Italian green grocery near me, I resolved to try again. Putting a lot of effort into treating them properly, I double peeled them while watching TV in the evenings, ready to work with them in the morning.
The efforts have been rewarded. I am now loving these wonderful, short-seasoned beans. I will be quite sad when their season is over (but I have discovered that frozen broad beans are available, and they are particularly good).
Dried Broad Beans (Fava Beans) are a great substitute for fresh broad beans once their season has finished. They don’t exactly taste like the fresh version, but are pretty good in their own right and make the smoooooothest divine puree for a dip or spread. But today we are making an Autumn soup. If you think of fresh broad beans as being quintessentially Spring, the dried incarnation of them are the essence of Autumn.
The downside is that they need to be peeled before cooking. They say that dried, peeled Broad Beans are available, even split ones, but I have been unsuccessful in my search for them. Thus it is necessary to soak the dried beans for 12 – 24 hours beforehand, then slip the peels from them, and only then put them on to cook. Not every recipe you see will tell you this trick – it seems to be rather a secret. I will usually soak the beans for around 24 hours, and sit peeling them at night while I am watching TV or talking to the kids.
It seems that no matter how you cook broad beans, they need peeling. Except perhaps for the extremely young fresh beans, you need to get your long thumb nail working and peel that outer skin off of the individual beans.
This applies also to the dried beans. I have heard that you can buy pre-peeled, dried broad beans, but I have not been able to find them. So trust me, it is not worth cooking the dried beans without peeling first. The dried skin is like a suit of armour, hard and tough even when the inner flesh has boiled away to nothing.
To peel these little battle beans, cover with boiling water, and leave to soak for 12 hours, no less, and up to 24 hours. The peels may have split a little, allowing you to peel the skin off. Once peeled, you can cook them as desired.
This recipe is a Broad Bean Purée with Dill, a Turkish dish. Turkish Fava is made with Fava beans (broad beans), unlike the Greek Fava which is made with yellow split lentils. Confusing, I know, but how great diversity is! The purée is left to set, then unmoulded or cut into cubes. It is then drizzled with olive oil, lemon, and some fresh dill.
In this up-and-down weather at the moment, one day 38C, the next down to 20C, Summer trying to heat up but seemingly running out of fuel. We need to vary our food according to weather – when H O T , we do very very cooling dishes, when it cools we look for a little more substance.
Just right for the cooler Summer days is a Five Bean Salad – the beans add substance but it is still a salad, full of the tang of lemon and olive oil, Summery full of parsley.
Quickly pan fried with salt and chilli, these are delicious snacks.
A great snack, quickly prepared, is pan fried edamame. You can use peas as well. I like to do this with shelled peas and beans, but you can also make this with peas and edamame in their pods. Simply suck them out of the shell between your teeth after cooking. This can even be made with broad beans.
The secret to great tasting broad beans is double peeling
It is easy to develop an aversion to Broad Beans. Prolific bearers and easy to grow, they are an easy choice for home gardeners and country kitchen gardens. Yet the poor bean is often misunderstood. Instead of being treated tenderly, cooks mistakenly overcooked them to a green-grey mush with a strong taste only masked by other strong tasting ingredients. Unaware that each individual bean has its own skin that needs to be peeled, they were being boiled until that outer skin reached a level of tenderness – and that mean that the inner bean was overcooked.
Yes, the secret to broad beans is that they need to be double peeled. First the fury pod is removed, and then, after blanching, the skin of each bean can be easily slipped off. Young beans are preferable to their older counterparts as their flavour is gentler.
What a difference a peel makes! You might like to read more about broad beans.