Podded

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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30 comments

  1. Summer food! Lovely podding activities. Fave beans. Can’t wait for Spring. Melbourne is grey and cold. Not cold by English standards, but nevertheless, cold. And I am pondering what to do with a glut of turnips and feeling rather like Tess of the d’urbervilles.

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    • I love broad beans and usually make this crostini topping frequently when the fresh beans are in season. Turnips…if they are the white ones, I’ve made pickle with them, slicing or cutting into wedges, adding a few raw beets, coriander seeds, bay leaf… They come out nice and pink and last for a few months in the refrigerator. Might do a post on it when we get to the cooler months.

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  2. I like podding activities too Deb. Shelling peas was probably my very first actually helpful kitchen job, helping my Grandma who sat with a colander on her knee and a newspaper parcel of peas in the pod at the kitchen table. Nothing matches that crisp sweetness. Yummiest broad bean dish I have had was in Portugal, cooked to mush with cured pork. Roll on springtime so I can try this crostini

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    • Me, too! Grandmothers and podding peas seem to go together. When I pod peas now, a good number of them are consumed right away – like when I pick raspberries. The Portuguese dish sounds really good. They really know how to cure pork. I think I may have had a similar dish in Greece; these beans are often added to meat stews.

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  3. Can’t resist posting this:

    Broad Bean Pod Fritters– from Abel and Cole
    Did you know that you can cook (and eat) those furry little sleeping bag covers for your broad beans? A chef tipped us off on this one. They’re delicious – just as anything that is fried and dusted with salt is. Your compost bin may started feeling deprived, though.
    10-12 broad bean pods
    2 mugs of flour
    1 mug of milk
    A good pinch of sea salt, pepper and chilli powder (or any other punchy spice)
    Sunflower oil, for frying
    Tear the broad bean pods along their seam. Trim any string sides off. Cut each pod half into 3-4cm pieces – if you do this at a diagonally angle it looks fancier. Place in a large shallow bowl or on a plate. Season it well. Place the milk in a separate bowl, much the same sizes.
    Dredge the trimmed pods through the flour. Dip in the milk. Dredge through the flour again. You can deep or shallow fry them. Do this until golden. Let them cool slightly. You can eat them like this, but if you want them extra crispy, give them one more dip in the hot oil. They’re extra morish this way. Dust with salt and serve. Delicious on their own. Also very yummy with a dip like our sticky Red Chilli Jam.

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    • Traditional Greek recipes include young and tender the whole bean – pod and all – cooked in stews or in a tomato or avgolemoni (lemon/egg) sauce. This fritter recipe is quite intriguing. Thanks for sharing!

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    • If you use everything, there is nothing left over for composting! But, I fully understand the impulse to find alternative uses. Pea pod wine is a traditional beverage, so perhaps bean pods might also be used?

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  4. I love reading all these ideas in your post and the comments about uses for beans and the shells. Also, the first thing that came to my mind with the peas is helping my Granny in Scotland to shell the peas and that was apparently such a privilege for 5 year old me that I still recall that whenever I have fresh garden peas. Looks like a memory I share with others.

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    • It must be a granny thing! I also learned to shuck corn and shell shrimp from my grandmother when I was young, but you always seem to start with peas – easier and instant gratification. I also enjoy reading alternative (or tangential) suggestions that crop up in comments. Makes it interesting!

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  5. I remember sitting next to Mom and podding peas for that night’s dinner. Though my family loved fava beans, we never cooked them. They were always served fresh, as one would crudités. Several times I’ve bought some at a farmers market, intent on trying some tasty-sounding recipe — like yours here — but I end up snacking on them until there are too few to use in the recipe. I guess I’ll just have to buy twice as much if I’m ever going to prepare your recipe. 🙂

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    • Podding peas must be a very common childhood memory! Raw favas are wonderful, but we also love this crostini topping. Pairs very well with the herbs, the mint in particular. I hope you get a chance to try it, but I understand that draw to snacking on the freshly podded beans. 😉 I do the same with peas and always have to buy more than required for the recipe!

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  6. Until we were able to buy them already podded, it was our summer event to buy crates of broad beans, pod them and freez them for the winters to make broad/fava bean rice (I will post it soon). These broad beans you podded are young and tender ones. We would buy large ones and with skin cut them through lengthwise (through the flat side), the halved beans with fall out and just pushed out the beans out of their inner skin.
    These costinis are delectable. 😛

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    • I love fava with rice and make a risotto with chicken and broad beans, so am looking forward to your Persian rice variation! The broad beans are young now, but as summer progresses, the bigger and less tender ones appear in the market. Those are good, too, but not as succulent as the early ones. We can also find them podded in the frozen food section during winter. The crostini topping is excellent!

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    • They aren’t something I ran into frequently in the US. I suppose most people there tend to eat lima beans rather than broad beans, although they are really very different in taste. Broad beans are sometimes called fava beans, particularly within the Italian communities, so you may find them in Italian markets. They are great raw, but also good cooked like this recipe. Hope you can find them!

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  7. I bet the worms are delighted with your industriousness! Also love that you are fine with the milk curdling and not running around with your hair on fire ‘oh no the milk is about to curdle!’

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    • The compost heap is teaming with worms! Curdled milk doesn’t bother me. In fact, it is how you make ricotta – adding salt and an acidic ingredient (lemon or vinegar) to warm milk. I think the combination of salt and garlic produces the same result here. Now, if this was a fine hollandaise sauce, it would be a different matter!

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    • One person’s chore, another person’s pleasure. I think most people who mentioned shelling peas with a relative (grandmother, mother, aunt…) thought of it as a way the adults included a child in their cooking activity. Yet, I also shudder remembering the times when I was set the task of skinning peaches for my grandmother to jam, brandy, or simply can in their juices. There were just too many of them! Your hands got slimy and sticky, and the darned skin would cling…. Shelling peas and beans is a doodle after that! Although, I did enjoy the reward of peach ice cream.

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  8. I love podding, beans, peas and fava beans! …it reminds me of great moments with my mum! 🙂 this crostini are really appealing 😉

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