Next to the pea patch, we had a bed of broad beans. Broad (or fava) beans are another childhood memory: picking them during a sunny winter afternoon and then shelling them in front of the fire for supper. We had another bumper crop this year, I am delighted to say, so some are safely stored in the deep freeze.
Ever since I lived on my own and had a patch of ground, I have grown vegetables (or tried to). Tom happily tells friends that when he met me, and I had a tiny terrace cottage with an equally tiny back garden, he discovered a couple of enormous tomato plants among the ornamentals. I have yet to loose an almost childlike excitement with which I greet the first picking or pulling of any vegetable that privileges our garden. Then I set to thinking about what I’m going to do with it. Usually, the first pickings are the sweetest and most tender so they get the least amount of “treatment”. So it was with our first broad beans: lightly boiled (not to death like my English mother would have cooked them) and as an accompaniment to supper. However, that gets really boring …
So, in addition to that way, I also use them in salads: blanch the beans and pop them out of their grey skins and toss the beautiful, bright green cotyledons into the salad. This salad, in addition to the broad beans, and as the flavours seem to work well together included mint and chives, as well as pepino. For a little extra colour, a scattering of calendula petals topped it off.
I have mentioned my love affair with Katie Caldesi’s Italian Cookery Course, and in it, discovered a traditional Italian dip made with broad beans and mint. I had never thought of including mint with broad beans. Mint is for peas – or so I had been brought up to think (by that same English mother….) Anyway, I looked at the recipe and gave it a bash: essentially, it’s broad beans (popped out of their skins if they’re big – I didn’t with this batch as they were still tiny), mint, finely grated Parmesan cheese, garlic leaves (or a small clove if you don’t have the leaves), all of which are whizzed or pulsed together into a course mixture. Serve on crostini drizzled with olive oil.
Like this week, which has gone in a flash, all to soon, the bean plants are spent and the bed liberated exposing the artichokes we weren’t sure would survive the winter……… More of them, anon….