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Broad beans can be harvested from June until September in the UK. Delicate and slightly sweet, their bright green pods are packed with protein, fibre, potassium and vitamins A and C.
Broad beans can be time consuming unless bought from the freezer and are fairly labour intensive. In France they are eaten very young and still in their skins, but once they have been on the plant a bit longer the pods will be tough and bitter and should be removed.
1kg of broad beans in their pods will yield around 300g of shelled weight. Put the whole pod in a saucepan, cover with boiling water and simmer for 3-5 minutes, drain and then rinse with cold water.
It is perfectly ok to eat the skins, but they can sometimes be tough and metallic in flavour, particularly in larger beans. Once the beans are cold enough to handle, use a fingernail to gently slit the skins and then carefully squeeze out the bright green centre.
Broad beans can be served in a warm salad with spinach, peas, spring onions, lots of fresh herbs and a simple vinaigrette, which goes brilliantly with chicken or fish. They are also perfect in a risotto with some sharp pecorino cheese or salty smoked bacon; or else blended with garlic, olive oil and mint for a hummus-style dip.
Broad beans are widely grown in Europe and all over the world. However, they are thought to have originated in the Mediterranean, which may account for their popularity in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. In Egypt, Syria and Lebanon they are often served for breakfast, in a lightly spiced and warming dish known as Ful Medames.
Ful Medames is a brilliant dish for keeping you full until lunchtime and beyond, it’s completely vegan and good for you too. It uses dried beans which will need overnight soaking so it’s not a speedy dish, but if you make a big batch it’ll keep in the fridge for about a week.
- 450g dried brown broad beans, soaked overnight
- 4-6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1tbsp ground cumin
- 3 tbsp tahini
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Fresh coriander
- Fresh mint
- Lemon wedges
- Olive oil
- 1 spanish onion, finely sliced
- Diced cucumber and tomato salad
- Toasted pitta bread
- Natural Yoghurt (optional, not for vegans)
- Chopped hard-boiled egg (optional, not for vegans)
How to cook:
- Preheat the oven to 150˚C.
- Rinse the soaked beans in cold running water and place in a casserole dish. Add more water, approximately 5cm above the level of the beans.
- Stir in half of the cumin, the garlic and lots of black pepper. Cover the casserole with a lid and cook, without stirring, until the beans are soft. This will take around 4-5 hours.
- Prepare the side dishes in small bowls to be placed on the table.
- Once the beans are cooked, stir in the tahini and the remaining cumin, then season with salt to taste.
- Serve in bowls with a wedge of lemon, drizzled with olive oil and scattered with the herbs. Help yourself to sides and enjoy.