Broadly speaking

Indulge me while I write yet another food post. You see, Spring is not only the time of all things rhubarb and asparagus, it’s also the only time of year to eat broad beans. A lot of people shy away from broad beans because they take a bit of extra loving. Unlike peas, where it’s a matter of ripping in and getting them out, shelling broad beans is quite an art. If you try to rip in, you’ll never get them out. They have too much self-respect. It’s a matter of squeezing the foamy, spongy pod at just the right angle, and popping them out gracefully like the cork of a good chablis. And while you’re standing there popping, take the opportunity to think about life and the cosmos.

Broad beans are another of those things that cause disharmony in the Kelly family. But this time, I’d have to side with Dad. What kind of woman isn’t thrilled by a meal of fresh broad beans? A woman spoiled by thirty years of home grown vegetables, I’d say. Dad, if you cook them this way, she will love them. Promise. The recipe I’m posting below may well be my last meal of choice. Totally worth the podding labour. By the way (if you’re in Australia) now is the time plant broad beans. If you don’t have a garden but are lucky enough to live in Wollongong, buy them from the strawberry man at the markets. They’re grown locally and (if you do feel the need) you can buy them already podded 🙂

This recipe comes from Jamie’s Kitchen. Frozen peas work just fine.

Broad Bean and Crispy Pancetta Salad with a Pea, Peccorino and Mint Dressing

1 clove of garlic, peeled and left whole
300g/10½oz podded broad beans
8 slices of pancetta or smoked streaky bacon
a handful of whole blanched almonds
150g/5½oz podded fresh peas
70g/2½oz pecorino or Parmesan cheese, or a mixture of both, grated
a handful of fresh mint, leaves picked
8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 or 2 lemons
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a pot to the boil, half-filled with water, but with no salt as this makes broad beans and peas toughen. Add your garlic and allow the water to boil for a couple of minutes before adding the broad beans. Cook for around 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how young the beans are. Simply taste one to check. If you feel the skins are a little tough, which they can be sometimes, let them cool a little and then you can peel them very quickly by pinching and squeezing the bean out. Throw the skins away, and keep the garlic clove to one side. Place your pancetta on a baking tray, with the almonds spread out next to it. Place in a hot oven at 250°C/475°F/gas 9 − keeping an eye on the almonds to make sure they don’t colour too much. You should be able to crisp up the pancetta at the same time as toasting the almonds, but simply remove one or the other if it is getting too far ahead.

To make the dressing, put your raw podded peas and the soft, boiled garlic clove into a pestle and mortar or a Magimix and bash or blitz until smooth. Add the cheese and most of the mint and stir or pulse to make a smooth paste. You want to turn this into a thick dressing, so add the olive oil and 4 to 5 tablespoons of lemon juice, to your preference. Season to taste − it should have an amazing flavour of sweet peas, twangy lemon, fragrant mint and a softness and roundness from the cheese. A balance is good, but you should also trust your own personal judgement. I generally like mine to be a bit more lemony, to cut through the smokiness of the pancetta.

Mix the dressing with the broad beans and sprinkle this over four plates. Crumble the pancetta over, followed by a sprinkling of the almonds, which can be crushed or bashed up a little. Tear a little mint over the top with a little shaved Parmesan if you like.

Recipe credit:


5 Responses to “Broadly speaking”

  1. 1 Jo May 24, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    Wow! This sounds so delicious!!! Definitely a F.W.D.G.F. recipe… indulge in moderation. Do you know I’ve neither cooked broad beans nor ever eaten them to my knowledge. Might be time to try! 🙂 This posting definitely got a “Springy” feel! 🙂 Love,
    Jo xo

  2. 2 Merren May 25, 2010 at 12:19 am

    Perhaps it was the salt that made them tough when I was encouraged to eat them as a child in England. Dad can give it a go although I fear some room alongside the rhubarb will be on the cards.

  3. 3 Arthur May 25, 2010 at 8:17 am

    I had all but given up on broad beans. However, since they are legumes and thus good soil improvers, as well as the basis for some interesting food, I might just try again.
    Ally, here is another serving suggestion. Cook podded broad beans in some water in a saucepan until just done (take the outer shell off any large ones). Meanwhile, fry up some bacon or pancetta with a chopped up onion and some garlic if you wish. When it is done add a couple of chopped ripe tomatoes (or a tin if you don’t have any fresh ones), a bit of salt, some black pepper and some fresh herbs like basil or parsley if you wish. Cook until the tomato starts to break down. Then add the cooked broad beans and continue to cook for a few more minutes. Absolutely yummy. Serve with to bbqued lamb or pork chops, good quality sausages or as a vegetarian meal in themselves, perhaps with some couscus, mashed potato or greens.

  4. 4 Samantha May 25, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Yum Ally, thanks for sharing the recipe! I planted broad beans almost a month ago, so I will keep this recipe on hand for when they are ready to be picked! Sam xoxox

  5. 5 kimlovesjozi May 25, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    I tried this recipe a couple of months ago, but it was a disaster. Since I didn’t have the actual recipe I was just guessing from the one time you made it for me, so I’m sure that is partially to blame. I also struggled with the broad beans. Here they are called mange tout (which sounds nice when Stephen who can speak french pronounces it, but i mangle it). I’m sure what I bought were broad beans, though snow peas are also called mange tout. But the ones I bought were bigger than snow peas and had that furry kind of skin, not soft like a snow pea. But then when I shelled them the actual beans inside were tiny and few and not worth bothering with. By then I was so frustrated that I just chopped up the whole pod and cooked it (can’t remember how!) and forced myself and Stephen to smile as we ate them.

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