Monday, September 22, 2008

Cooking broad beans

I might even end up calling 2008 the year of the broad bean! Well, it has been that for me. While, for many years, I have enjoyed cooking and eating broad beans, this year I've completed the cycle by growing, cooking and eating broad beans, and it has been well worthwhile. So, for this little post, my first about cooking, I thought I'd offer up my favourite way of cooking broad beans. I'll put the full recipe at the bottom of the post. But in these photos and captions I'll just talk you through the recipe.

Visually, peeled broad beans are the most delicious little vegetable, glistening with moisture from the par-boiling and peeling, glowing the freshest, youngest green colour imaginable.

And this is where they came from. No pests attacked my crops and they grew like crazy through the winter. The main job in growing them is to keep on tying them to the growing frame, using something gentle, such as budding tape.

Harvesting them is a delight, as there are always a lot more beans on the plant that you might notice at first glance. Keep on poking around and you find lots more.

Preparing broad beans is a labour of love. If you're lazy about cooking, broad beans are not for you. Step 1: break open the pods and shell out the large beans into a bowl.

Step 2: bring a saucepan of water to a rolling boil, then tip in all the broad beans. As soon as the water starts to bubble again, that's enough blanching. Tip the broad beans into a bowl of cold water.

Step 3: now shell the broad beans again, removing the tough outer shell, revealing the gorgeous, tender, inner green bean.

Flash photography at night has an amateurishness about it that really is second to none. But I got the idea of blogging about cooking broad beans after sunset, so flash photos it is. Here's the line-up of ingredients for broad beans. Top left, home made chicken stock (I make mine using old boiler chooks, which have stacks of flavour). Centre top is chopped bacon (about 1 small rasher). Also shown are the broad beans, carrot, potatoes, fresh common thyme, and French eschallots.

Here's the cooking at half-way. The process is fairly easy. A splash of extra-virgin olive oil, then fry the bacon and chopped eschallots for a few minutes, until the eschallots soften. Then toss in the sliced carrots and chunked potatoes, and let them fry for a few minutes. Then add just enough chicken stock to make it wet, but not to cover it all, and sprinkle in the thyme (a fair bit, probably a tablespoon of leaves). Pop a lid on top and let it all cook slowly for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are soft.

Then, just 3-4 minutes before you plan to serve them, add the broad beans and stir through. The blanching process done earlier half-cooks the beans so they need very little cooking at all, and their colour is just wonderful.

For the formal recipe, here it is.

1kg fresh broad beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 French eschallots or small onions, or spring onions, sliced
1 rasher bacon, chopped into dice
1 carrot, sliced into rounds
2 potatoes, cut into small chunks
3 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
about 200ml chicken stock (or 2/3 cup)
salt and pepper to taste

1. First shell the broad beans. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, then drop in the shelled beans, then scoop them out with a strainer when the water comes back to the boil. Remove the beans' outer skin, revealing the green, inner beans.
2. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the bacon and eschallots/onions and cook until the eschallots soften slightly. Then add the carrots and potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
3. Add enough chicken stock to make it wet, but not enough to cover the vegies. Bring the stock to a simmer, then cover and cook for 20 minutes over a low flame. Then add the broad beans, plus salt and pepper to taste. Cook, uncovered, at a gentle simmer for 3-4 minutes more, until the beans and potatoes are tender. Serve as a vegetable side dish, or on its own, if you like.

And finally, a little recipe credit to a very large-format book called 'France, the Beautiful Cookbook', which is loaded with lovely recipes. It's written by the three Scotto sisters. My recipe adds in potatoes and doesn't use goose-fat, either, but it's their recipe nevertheless!



Very rich I have be hungry

Anonymous said...

Nice blog!

A pleasure to view!
take care,


heelers said...

I think I'd like to start gardening. It's a sort of long term ambition of mine. I like the idea but the effort involved seems a bit too much like, er, effort!
James (in Ireland)