Broad bean salads set pulses racing

Broad beans were one of the earliest cultivars. They store well, usually dried but sometimes in a saltwater brine. The dried beans are usually rehydrated and used for making purees or braised dishes that contain vegetables and/or meat.

This pulse’s popularity is on the rise. One of my favourite things to eat when I lived in Shanghai was an appetiser made from fresh broad beans. The twice-podded beans were boiled and mashed with spring onion and chopped snow cabbage (a Chinese preserve). In Szechuan, broad beans and chilli are fermented to make a funky bean paste, doubanjiang, which is crucial to many base recipes. Sold in local stores, fried broad beans are also a popular snack. They are particularly good with cold beer. 

There are a number of simple preparations or steps required when cooking with broad beans. Many recipes require double podding. To do this, beans need to be removed from the larger bean pod and then the individual beans removed from their skins. If the beans are small, say not much bigger than a pea, then the skin doesn’t need to be removed, as it is quite thin. In fact, a lot of the flavour comes from the skin in these smaller beans. Larger beans need to be blanched for a minute or two and refreshed in iced water to make removal of the skin easier. The skin should slip away from the skin when pinched. It is the inner, ever-so-bright-green internal bean that I’m after. It’s sweet and tender.

Last season, we served an appetiser of whole young broad beans in the pod. The beans were grilled over a hot wood grill until lightly coloured. The small beans steamed inside the outer pod as it grilled. Eaten whole, the tender beans were served with a pot of aioli for dipping. Another great broad bean-related eatable are the leaves of the young broad bean plant. Fry them and serve as part of a salad along with the flowers, which carry a subtle flavour of fava but mostly look pretty on the plate. 

Try making a simple Greek-style lamb stew or braise with spring onion and a little stock. When almost cooked, add a cup of podded broad beans with the skin intact and simmer for 15 minutes. Small frozen broad beans are good for this in the middle of winter when the fresh variety is not available. (Other than peas, broad beans are the only frozen vegetable I have used at home.) At the last moment add a handful of chopped dill and plenty of lemon juice to the lamb braise.

Broad bean and salt cod salad

Serves 6

- 150g piece of salt cod, soaked for 24 hours in plenty of water that is changed 2 or 3 times

- 6 kipfler potatoes

- 2kg broad beans

- 1 onion

- 1 clove garlic

- 4 tbsp olive oil

- 2 tsp white wine vinegar

- 1 tbsp lemon juice

- 3 sprigs fresh mint, picked and torn to give about 3 tbsp

- ½ bunch parsley, picked and finely chopped

Place the salt cod in an appropriately sized saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and cook gently for about 20 minutes until the cod is tender, then lift from the water and carefully remove all the bones and skin. Flake the flesh finely.

At the same time place the potatoes in a pot of cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until just cooked. When they have cooled a little, peel them and then slice into rounds one-centimetre thick.

Pod the broad beans and then blanch them in boiling salted water for 1½ minutes or until tender. Refresh them in ice-cold water and slip the green beans out of their greyish skins.

Finely dice the onion and garlic and cook in the olive oil until the onion is translucent.

Gently toss together the potatoes, broad beans, salt cod and fried onion and olive oil mixture.

This dish benefits from sitting about at room temperature for an hour or so. Just before serving, stir through the vinegar, lemon juice and herbs. Check the seasoning; the fish is quite salty already.

Broad beans and goat’s curd on toast

Makes 8 croutons 

Ditch the toast and add rocket to make a great stand-alone salad.

- 1kg broad beans

- ½ baguette 

- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

- juice of ½ lemon 

- 2 tbsp shredded basil

- salt

- 150g goat’s curd

- dried chilli flakes

Pod the broad beans and blanch them in boiling salted water for 1½ minutes or until tender. Refresh the beans in iced water and slip them out of their greyish skins.

Slice the baguette on a diagonal to make eight slices about five-millimetres thick and 10-centimetres long.

Place the bread on a tray, brush with two tablespoons of the olive oil and bake in a medium oven for six minutes, or until the bread is golden and toasty.

Chop the broad beans and mix them with the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice, basil and salt to taste.

Just before serving, spread the goat’s curd on the croutons, top it with a good spoonful of broad bean mixture and sprinkle with a touch of dried chilli.

Wine pairings:

2014 Unico Zelo fiano, Riverland, SA ($23) – Leanne Altmann, sommelier, Supernormal.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 30, 2014 as "Finger on the pulse". Subscribe here.

Andrew McConnell
is the executive chef and co-owner of Cutler & Co and Cumulus Inc.