As with most things in cooking – and in life, if I’m being totally honest – when the first broad beans appear, I always think to myself, “What would Jane do?” The wonderful Jane Grigson says of broad beans: “Few things taste better than a dish of new young vegetables, lovingly cooked. No need for meat or apologies.” I couldn’t agree more. Yes, there is a small amount of effort required to get to the meat of the matter, but it’s worth every second. This is one of those kitchen tasks where you can genuinely get the kids involved, too – in exchange, they get a faintly farty smell lingering on their fingers with which they can terrorise each other for hours. Fun for all the family.

Cooking the beans

Broad beans can be eaten raw, pods and all, but only if they are very young and small, and freshly picked, so unless you grow your own, cooking is the way to go.

250g beans in the pod per person

Bring a large pan of water to a rapid boil. Pop the beans out of their pods and prepare an ice bath. Cook the beans in small batches for a minute (give larger beans up to two minutes max) – it is important that the water remains at a rolling boil, so don’t cook too many beans at once and cover the pan to keep it boiling. Plunge the cooked beans straight into well-iced water. Once all the beans are cooked and chilled, remove the skins – the beans should squeeze out easily – and they are ready for use in any of today’s recipes.

Broad beans with tomato, anchovy and pecorino

Sort of like baked beans, but nicer. Serve these on grilled sourdough that has been rubbed with half a clove of garlic, or with pasta, or lamb. Serves four.

400g over-ripe tomatoes
65ml olive oil
70g chopped marinated anchovies
60g grated pecorino (aged is best; parmesan will do as a substitute)
Cooked broad beans from 1kg in pod
½ tsp finely chopped rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chop the tomatoes and place in a large, heavy-based pan with the olive oil. Cook on a low heat for half an hour, stirring often, until most of the liquid has evaporated and you’re left with a thick, rich paste. Push the tomatoes through a sieve to get rid of the seeds and skins, and return to the pan. Add the anchovies, cheese, beans and rosemary, and stir gently so the beans don’t break up. Heat through, allowing the cheese to melt slightly, season to taste and serve.

Broad beans with mint and smoked bacon

This is how we’re serving broads at the restaurant at the moment, with a dish of slow-cooked suckling pig. These also go fabulously with roast lamb or goat. Serves four.

100g smoked streaky bacon
250g salted butter
150g cold water
20g mint
Cooked broad beans from 1kg in pod
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the bacon into thin strips, cook slowly in a heavy-based pan until crisp and golden, tip on to kitchen paper to drain, then set aside.

Warm the butter gently in a pan until most (but not all) of it has melted, then slowly add the water, blitzing with a hand blender the whole while until the mixture has emulsified. (If it splits, add a couple of cubes of butter and a little more water.) Heat the emulsion in a saucepan. Shred the mint finely, then stir the mint, bacon and beans into the emulsion, heat through and season to taste (the salt in the butter and bacon should be sufficient). Serve immediately.

Broad beans with crayfish and nasturtium

Mary-Ellen McTague’s broad beans with crayfish and nasturtium: ‘An elegant dish, perfect for a posh, summery lunch.’ Food styling: Claire Ptak. Photograph: Colin Campbell for the Guardian

English crayfish are in season right now, and the quality this year is superb. If your fishmonger can’t get hold of them, replace with langoustines or, at a push, prawns (or treat yourself to a lobster). This is an elegant dish, perfect for a posh, summery lunch. You don’t often see nasturtiums in the shops, granted, so grow your own, nick some from a neighbour (though don’t let on I told you to do so), or use watercress, rocket or mustard leaf. Serves four.

12 whole crayfish
80g pastrami, cut into small cubes
Olive oil
75g salted butter
Cooked broad beans from 1kg in pod
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 nasturtium flowers
12 nasturtium leaves

Cook the crayfish in boiling water for a minute if small, two if large. Separate the claws, head and tail. Shell the tails and remove the vein –the easiest way to do this is to pinch the central fan on the tail, then twist and pull: the fan should come away, taking the vein with it. Crack the claws gently on both sides with the back of a knife, break open and take out the meat; discard the cartilage.

Heat the oven to 150C/300F/gas mark 2. Put the picked crayfish meat in an ovenproof dish. Fry the pastrami quickly in a little oil, to colour, then add to the crayfish.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Gently stir the beans in the butter, then tip over the crayfish. Bake for a couple of minutes, gently to warm through – again, don’t leave them in too long, because both beans and crayfish will overcook quickly.

Stir in the lemon juice and season to taste, though it should be salty enough already. Decorate with the nasturtium flowers and leaves, and serve with crusty bread and chilled white wine.

Broad bean and wasabi salad

Great with steak and chips, or with fried meaty fish such as monkfish or turbot. Radish shoots are hard to get hold of, but you can easily sprout your own – just soak red radish seeds in cold water for 12 hours, rinse, leave in a clean container and rinse twice a day for five to seven days, by which time you’ll have about 1-2cm of fiery radish goodness in the form of a sprout. Serves four.

7g wasabi paste
10ml lemon juice
50g mayonnaise (good-quality shop-bought is fine)
100g radishes, plus some radish shoots (optional)
Cooked broad beans from 1kg in pod
50g pea shoots
Olive oil and lemon juice, to dress the leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix the wasabi, lemon juice and mayo. Cut the radishes thinly. Mix the beans into the wasabi mayo, then pile a mound in the centre of each plate. Arrange the radishes on top. Dress the pea shoots with olive oil and lemon juice, season, then scatter over the top and serve.

Broad bean and ricotta dip

In the unlikely event of there being any cooked beans left over, I urge you to try this: mix equal weights of cooked broad beans and ricotta, whizz to blend, then eat on pitta with crisp bacon, parma ham or salami. Proper yum.

• Mary-Ellen McTague is chef/owner of Aumbry in Prestwich, Manchester.

Backyard broad beans & how to eat them

Tags: kitchen garden, Rome, spring, tuscany, vegetables, vegetarian · Thursday, November 14, 2013 · 14 Comments

I began dabbling in gardening in the most unlikely of places – a rooftop overlooking the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. It got a good bit of sun and we had a wide terrace, so we decided to experiment with some tomato seeds in little terracotta pots that matched the rooftops. It was a step up from the previous pots of sage, thyme and basil that I’d kept on window ledges of tiny apartments. Like magic, they sprouted and grew. We moved them into bigger pots and they grew bigger still. Eventually we got tomatoes on them and enjoyed them, ripe and red, still warm from the sun, and I still marvel at the simplicity of growing your own vegetables even on a balcony.

This past winter we were lucky enough to move to a new house with a small raised garden bed with mint, parsley and rosemary bushes fighting for space on one end. With a bigger space, we got a little more adventurous and although I wouldn’t exactly say we’re green thumbs – amateur gardeners who learn along the way, at best – we bought a good book with good advice to follow and dove head first into the dizzying selection of heirloom seeds at The Diggers Club. In went some cavolo nero seeds, radicchio, strawberry seedlings and, for the spring, some snow peas and broad beans. When the broad beans have all been harvested we’ll pull them out and plant more tomatoes where they were – they leave the soil full of nitrogen, a great environment for growing tomatoes. How clever.

Broad beans are a favourite vegetable of ours. I was introduced to them, and my favourite way of eating them, when I moved to Tuscany: a basket of broad beans, still in their furry pods, some semi-aged pecorino cheese and silky slices of salty prosciutto toscano — lunch sorted. The beans (also known as fava beans, or fave or baccelli in Italian) are eaten raw, skins on, straight out of the pods. The slight bitterness of that outer layer of skin on the beans, a little more balanced in small, sweet, young specimens, is balanced by the sharp saltiness of the accompanying cheese and prosciutto. It’s a perfect match and on a warm spring evening, there’s nothing I’d rather have on the table than this.

We found here in Australia that broad beans sold at the markets were always quite large, with thick, inedible skins that made the arduous task of double-podding a must (I do like this Wall Street Journal article by Nancy Harmon Jenkins on fava beans and how Americans seem to have forgotten them). And eating them raw was no longer pleasurable as they were hard and mouth-puckeringly bitter. Finding those soft, sweet, young beans that you could just eat one by one, straight out of the pod, was the main inspiration in growing them ourselves and I found they were astonishingly easy to grow – as easy as popping the seed into the soil and just watching, waiting and watering.

The little buds grow tall very quickly, then pretty, folded black and white flowers grow and then shrivel, with the pods taking their place. They’re picked when still slender enough that the beans are still young and green – about the width of your middle finger. It’s hard not to just rip them open and eat them then and there, picked right off the plant. Especially with a curious baby around. She’s already discovered the delicious, bitter gems encased inside the pods and eagerly puts them in her mouth. Just like that, a handful of them have disappeared before we’ve even gone back inside the kitchen.

With the beans that are left from our little spring harvest I’m also making a Roman vignarola, pretty much just like this lovely one that Rachel makes, only Marco insists on putting pancetta in it too. It’s a celebration of Italy’s best spring vegetables, a medley of artichokes, peas, broad beans and spring onions, stewed together with some white wine. With these freshly picked, little, green backyard beans, I won’t be double-peeling. They just go straight in – one for me and one for the pot.

Share this…

How to cook fresh broad beans from the garden or the shops by steaming or boiling them on the hob.

While not particularly high in any one Vitamin they do have a range of vitamins from A, C and B plus some iron and magnesium. They are however really high in folate, fibre and protein.

With broad beans available fresh from may through til July, they are a welcome sight to gardeners as an early crop you can enjoy while waiting for other things to be ready.

Broad beans make a great addition to many meals and they have a distinctive taste.

How to Cook Fresh Broad Beans from the Garden or Shops

Ideally, you want to pick your garden broad beans fresh and fairly young. Old enough that they are fully formed but not so old that they are tough and you need to remove the skins. This according to the RHS is about 7cm (3.5inches) long.

How to Steam Broad Beans

  1. Remove your beans from their pods
  2. Rinse and check for blemishes
  3. Place the beans into your steamer
  4. Making sure the steamer doesn’t run dry cook your beans for the allotted amount of time depending on your beans (see below)

How Long to Steam Broad Beans for Cooking Well?

When deciding on how long to steam your broad beans you need to consider a few of the following things.

  1. How big are your beans?
  2. How old are they?
  3. How well done do you like your beans cooked?
  4. How old are your beans?

The cooking time varies from between 6 to about 11 minutes depending on size, age and your preferences for how well cooked they are.

How to Boil Broad Beans

  1. Remove your broad beans from their pods
  2. Rinse them and check for any blemishes
  3. Place the beans into a pan of boiling water (you can add salt if yu prefer)
  4. It doesn’t take long to cook broad beans when you boil them about 3-4 minutes is all you need

What to do if you Have Tough Broad Beans

If your beans are older or tough once they are cooked and soft remove them from the pan. Then simply gently pinch the outside skins and squeeze them to make them pop out of their skins. They are now ready to eat.

Do I need to remove the skins from broad beans? K. Lucas

Think of the broad bean has having three lives and an afterlife. When they are young and small, say about the size of up to a fingernail, broad beans are young and tender and can be eaten from the pod raw as a snack, added to salads or simply sauteed in a little butter to warm them through.

When they are larger than this but with a smooth, tight skin they can be steamed or quickly boiled to soften the flesh and skin then refreshed in cold water and added to dishes from there. When the skin begins to wrinkle it becomes tough and bitter and then it is a good idea to remove the skins after cooking them. The afterlife is the fava beans, what we refer to as dried broad beans.

The ancient Greeks believed that the souls of the dead migrated to fava beans, hence the wind and foul smell after being eaten. Some people have trouble digesting the starch in the beans, which causes wind. Some people from or with a Mediterranean background suffer from a an unusual genetic disorder called favism that causes an allergic reaction and in some cases a blood disorder. Dried broad beans were a staple in the ancient world and together with whole grain such as barley or farro delivered all the amino acids needed for a healthy diet where meat was scarce.

Can you make paella with Arborio rice? Photo: Supplied

Can I use Arborio rice to make paella? D. Barrington

I could be jamon-whipped by ardent Spanish nationalists for saying this, but it is possible to make a half decent paella using Arborio rice. Arborio rice is a medium-grained variety that was developed in Northern Italy after it was established as a crop there in the 1400s.

Arborio rice is for risotto; constant stirring breaks off small particles of starch from the surface, which thickens the stock for a creamy texture. Because of the starch structure, the rice can turn mushy when overcooked. Paella is usually made with a medium-grained rice called bomba which has more amylose starch than Arborio, allowing it to keep its shape and slightly al dente texture when done.

If you cannot find bomba rice, you can use Arborio rice, but once it is added to the pan stir once and never again. Cook until rice has absorbed the stock and then test. The rice should be still a little al dente. Remove, cover, rest, drink and enjoy.

How do you prevent fresh leaves from wilting?

How do I stop my home made salad dressing from wilting my greens? L. Jago

Funnily enough it is the oil in your dressing that is causing flaccid lettuce and less than tumescent rocket. The oil dissolves the waxy layer on the leaf which allows moisture to escape.

Get the latest news and updates emailed straight to your inbox.

By submitting your email you are agreeing to Fairfax Media’s terms and conditions and privacy policy.

Dress, toss, and serve your greens straight away and wilting will never be your problem, but leave it more than 30 minutes and limpness may occur. Mustard, honey or egg yolk mayo will act as a surfactant and help keep your oil and vinegar mixed together in an emulsion after you shake them together.

Have you got a vexing culinary question? Send them to Richard Cornish at: [email protected]

6 ways to reuse broad bean pods!

Welcome to day 5 of Zero Waste Week 2016.

A friend shared his glut of broad beans with me recently.

I dutifully blanched and froze my wonderful harvest and reckon I’ll have enough beans to last me an entire year!

I created a couple of carrier bags of pods and was just about to compost / feed to the chickens when I wondered whether I was throwing away something edible.

As this year’s Zero Waste Week is all about reducing food waste, I asked our Facebook community whether I was missing a trick. Should I be doing something wonderful with the bean pods? Was there a new ‘favourite meal’ in the making? As ever, our community of Zero Heroes did not disappoint:

Broad Bean pod wine

John wrote “I *think* you can make wine from them, but it’s a decade since I brewed, so I’m not sure. ”

I’ll be looking into that one for sure – what a fantastic suggestion!

Broad bean pod stew

Helen went on a trip down memory lane. She shared “My mum used to cook them in a tomato sauce, they were delicious Towards the end of the season they got a bit stringy which wasn’t so pleasant. But they are yummy cooked!” She went on to say that her Mum fried some onion and garlic, added the tomatoes, bean pods and herbs and simmered until tender.

Eat as they are

Although she admitted large pods could be a bit furry / stringy, Karen wrote “The young ones I cook whole – so pods and beans in one!”

Make Stock

Alex wrote “You can freeze them until you are ready to make stock.”

Roast them

Jen says ” I roast/bake broad beans whole or snip them up and sauté them. They are fine to eat apart from the ‘strings’ running down either side!”

Broad Bean pod fritters

Yep, they’re a thing! Sheena shared this Abel and Cole recipe for fritters with me.

I’ll never view this ‘food waste’ in the same way again!

What about you – what do you do with broad bean pods?

P.S. Can’t get enough of this week’s Zero Waste Week content?

Never miss out again!

Sign up to the mailing list where you’ll get quarterly newsletters throughout the year plus DAILY emails during Zero Waste Week 2017.

Ready to sign up?

I know you are!

Press on the button below to sign up for free now:

Growing Fava Greens: Eating The Tops Of Broad Beans

Fava beans (Vica faba), also referred to as broad beans, are delicious large beans in the family Fabaceae, or pea family. Like other peas or beans, fava beans impart nitrogen into the soil as they grow and as they decompose. The beans are a staple ingredient in many cuisines but what about the fava greens? Are broad bean leaves edible?

Can You Eat Fava Bean Leaves?

Most growers of fava beans probably never even thought about eating the tops of broad bean plants, but it turns out that, yes, broad bean leaves (aka: greens) are, indeed, edible. The wonders of fava beans! Not only does the plant provide nutritious beans and amend the soil with nitrogen, but the fava greens are edible and absolutely delicious too.

Eating the Tops of Broad Beans

Fava beans are cool season veggies that are extremely versatile. Generally, they are grown as storage beans. The pods are allowed to mature until the shell turns hard and brown. The seeds are then dried and stored for later use. But they can also be harvested young when the entire pod is tender and can be eaten, or somewhere in between when the pods can be shelled and the beans cooked fresh.

The leaves are best when harvested young and tender where the new leaves and blossoms are emerging at the top of the plant. Snip off the top 4-5 inches (10-13 cm.) of the plant for use in salads, much like young spinach leaves. If you wish to cook the fava greens, use the lower leaves and cook them as you would other greens.

The tender young leaves from the top of the plant are sweet with a slight buttery, earthy taste. They can be eaten raw or cooked, and are excellent made into a fava green pesto. The older greens can be sautéed or wilted as you would spinach and used exactly the same way in egg dishes, pastas or just as a side dish.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *