I have always found podding peas or beans an enjoyable activity, particularly while sitting outside on a warm, sunny summer day. Yes, I realise that this may seem odd to some people (including members of my own family). But, it really is satisfying uncovering all that fresh vegetable goodness. Shucking fresh corn comes a close second.
In the end you are left with a big pile of compostable debris, far greater than the actual edible gems contained inside. Broad beans carry this to an extreme. Not only do they need to be podded, but (unless they are very young tender beans) they also need the tough outer skin to be removed. In fact, you will be lucky to get 130 to 140 grams of bright green fresh broad beans from 1.5 kilograms of the beans in pods. That’s about 10 times furry pod and thick skin than the tender bean. A lot of work, podding and skinning fresh broad beans, but oh, so worth it!
Broad Bean Crostini
This recipe is based on a verbal recounting from a friend who, in turn, thought she got it from one of the River Cafe books… Needless to say, I’ve scoured my River Cafe books in my cookbook library – the first cookbook, Book 2, the Green book, and Classic Italian cookbook. Nothing there except a vaguely similar mashed broad bean Bruchetta found in River Cafe Book Two (repeated in River Cafe Classic Italian). But it wasn’t quite the same – a different preparation technique and slightly different ingredients. Since I do not have the complete Rose Gray and Ruth Rodgers opus, I can’t discount the possibility that this particular recipe is there somewhere. Whatever the case, it is a wonderful, classic Italian crostini topping and one that I make frequently when broad beans are fresh.
- 1.5 kg broad beans, yielding approximately 1-1/2 cups
- 1 clove of garlic
- 4 fluid oz (1/2 cup) milk
- olive oil
- sea salt
- Ciabatta, baguette or similar bread
- Mint and Basil leaves
First, remove the beans from their pods.
Second, using a sharp paring knife, slit the outer skin of each bean, peeling away the tough skin. Also, remove the white notch (which is bitter) at the junction of the two halves of the inner bean.
Once the pods and outer skin have been removed, set the bright green inner beans aside while you assemble the other ingredients. Discard/compost the pile of pods and skins.
In a wide frying pan, heat about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Add the beans and the minced garlic. Stir and then add the milk and a little salt. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to low and let the beans cook for about 15 minutes.
The milk will reduce and curdle, forming a kind of fresh cheese. As the beans cook, roughly mash with the back of a wooden spoon. Do not reduce it to a pulp, but encourage the bean to split naturally and allow some to break into smaller pieces.
Let the mixture cool somewhat while you brush slices of the ciabatta or baguette with olive oil and toast under the grill (=broiler). Repeat with the flip side of the bread slices. Spread the beans on top of the toasted bread and sprinkle with the ribbons of basil and mint.