INGREDIENT OF THE MONTH - Broad beans
These vibrant green beauties are one of our favourite early summer treats.
- Broad beans recipes
Also known as fava beans, these pale green beans have been a staple in the European diet since the Bronze Age and are thought to be one of the earliest cultivated vegetables, dating back to 6500 BC. They have long been associated with death and evil spirits, and are thought to disturb sleep, giving them a malevolent reputation. Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs had a predilection for them, choosing to serve them with a glass of chianti and a census-taker’s liver.
The broad bean is a member of the Fabaceae family, also known as legumes, which also contain other agricultural big-hitters such as peas, chickpeas and peanuts. They are a great source of vitamins A and C and protein, but for the unlucky few who have favism, consumption of these beans can cause a life-threatening blood disorder. Don’t worry though, it’s extremely rare in the UK and is more often found in Africa and the Mediterranean.
Buying & storing
At the beginning of the broad bean season, you will find the pods are soft and slim and the beans small. Later in the season, the pods are wider and coarser and the beans will have a very thick skin. Look for firm, bright-coloured pods and beans with smooth skin. Keep the pods in the fridge and cover any podded beans with a damp cloth to prevent discolouration.
Small, raw beans are wonderful combined with cheese – their classic pairing is salty pecorino, but they work wonderfully with ricotta and goat’s cheese. Smaller pods can also be eaten raw, as can the leaves. Older and larger beans should be podded and boiled in salted water and the thick skin peeled if necessary. Broad beans are great puréed, in salads, soups and pasta and risotto dishes. Combine with other summer greens and herbs, such as asparagus and peas and basil and mint.
WHAT'S GOOD AT THE MOMENT?
Early summer is the time to enjoy lighter, brighter suppers
This beautiful purple globe has never been as popular here as it has been in the Mediterranean, where it's the star of many dishes, such as Greece's moussaka and Italy's melanzane parmigiana. Its substantial meatiness and its ability to take on other flavours makes it a hit with vegetarians. When cooking, be aware that it will absorb as much oil as you give it, so try to avoid frying and opt for grilling instead.
The garlic available throughout the year is actually dried. Now is the best time for just-harvested bulbs with pale, thick skins that once peeled back, reveal the whitest of cloves. The clove is wetter and juicier, and the taste is milder, sweeter and less pungent than dried garlic and so is perfect when used raw. Combine with mayonnaise to make aïoli, in the base of salad dressings or finely sliced and use in sauces. Young garlic can be found at farmers’ markets and good greengrocers.