Broad beans are so common here in the UK that it's easy to take them for granted, but they're worthy of their popularity. They're easy to grow and absolutely delicious, as evidenced by their use across Europe and the world. Used widely in the Mediterranean, broad beans are also known as Fava Beans (from the Italian Fava). In Egypt, the traditional dish Ful Medames is made with dried and cooked fava beans. The Spanish love habas fritas which are fried or roasted fava beans to munch with a glass of cava. In Crete, we were served raw broad beans in the pod to eat with the local brandy.
For all of the challenges this season, my crop of broad beans illustrates just how easy these beans are to grow. The beans can be planted in the autumn, and so long as the mice don’t collect for their winter store, will be up and producing beans in April/May. Planting in the spring will get you a crop in mid-June. By next week my broad beans should will be big enough cook with.
Here are a few of my favourite ways with broad beans. Remember: you will need a kilo of broad beans in their pods to end up with 350g and if you double pod, only 250g.
Double Podded Broad Beans
For some, broad beans have bad connotations, from those school dinners of tough mealy beans in a salty white sauce. But when young or double podded, broad beans are delicious. To double pod broad beans, start by podding the broad beans. Boil the beans for 3 minutes, then drain and run cold water over them to cool them down and keep the vibrant green colour. Double pod the broad beans by squeezing them out of their cases between thumb and finger.
A simple puree flavoured with well cooked onions, olive oil, lemon and a touch of chilli, eat with sheeps cheese and toasted sourdough.
Make with tender seasonal vegetables and top with double podded broadbeans.
Bissara is a Moroccan dip, it’s always spiced with cumin and can be made with fresh or dried beans. Here it's made with double podded fresh broad beans and mixed with roasted pumpkin seeds.
Paella should brown a little on the bottom and for the rice to form a crust. For paella aficionados this is the best part!