Catalan-style braised broad beans with smoked lardo
The warmer weather is not the only indicator of spring. For me, the sign that spring is here is the appearance of certain vegetables. Broad beans represent the season perfectly, and always find a place on the menu when they come on.
The first of the season’s broad beans are sweet, often very small and dainty. When small enough, I like to eat the beans raw, straight from the pod. As a snack in the restaurant we roll small whole broad beans for a moment over hot coals to quickly char them. I like to serve these alongside a pot of lemony mayonnaise for dipping. The whole pod can be eaten when they are this small.
As the season progresses they become larger and somewhat chalky. At this stage, the larger beans are still delicious but require a little extra cooking.
Broad beans are used throughout the world. They are eaten fresh but also often dried and used year-round. In China I have eaten the dried beans, which have been rehydrated and gently simmered for hours. When cooked, the beans are mashed to a coarse grey dip-like puree. The saving grace here is the addition of chopped preserved snow vegetable. Eaten with chopsticks at the start of a meal, it is a unique and delicious experience.
Another dish using dried broad beans is ful medames, a well-known Egyptian breakfast dish of rehydrated dried broad beans and braised broad beans, or “favas”, served with chopped tomatoes, ground cumin and a slick of olive oil. Onion and garlic is sometimes added.
The whole beans take a while to cook and the dish is traditionally cooked overnight.
We have noticed in the restaurant the quality diminishes quickly when the beans are removed from the pod. For this reason, we always leave the beans in the pod and remove them as we need them. I do prefer the smaller beans, about the size of a fingernail. Once dried, they store well and can be used on the menu throughout the year.
This is perfect served alongside roast meat or grilled blood sausage.
- 2 cups of shelled broad beans
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 80g smoked lardo, sliced into matchstick-sized strips
- 1 brown onion, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 60ml white wine
- 60ml chicken stock or water
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1 tbsp chopped oregano
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- pinch of sea salt and cracked black pepper
- Blanch the broad beans in salted boiling water for one minute, then refresh in iced water to cool before draining. Next, take a frying pan or braising dish, warm the olive oil and gently cook the sliced lardo, onion and garlic until soft and translucent without colouring. Add the white wine and simmer for two minutes. Add the chicken stock and then the broad beans, and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Continue to simmer gently for 15 minutes. Most of the liquid should be reduced and absorbed into the beans.
- Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Add the chopped parsley, oregano and lemon juice. Using a wooden spoon, keep stirring to emulsify the oils and lemon juice, which will serve as a dressing for the beans. Finally, season with a few cracks of black pepper and a good pinch of salt.
Broad beans on toast
- 1kg of whole broad beans
- 1 tbsp finely chopped capers
- 1 tbsp finely chopped mint, plus 12 small leaves for garnish
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- zest and juice from 1 lemon
- pinch of sea salt
- 4 thick slices of sourdough bread
- 2 tbsp softened butter
- 120g fresh ricotta seasoned with salt and pepper
- To prepare the broad beans, remove the beans from the pods. Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of water to the simmer. Plunge the podded beans into the boiling salted water for a minute, then immediately strain and cool in iced water.
- When cool, remove the broad beans from their jackets, peeling away the outer skin. Chop very finely and place in a bowl with the chopped capers, mint, olive oil, lemon juice and finely grated zest. Mix well and season to your liking with a pinch of sea salt.
- For the toast, evenly spread the butter onto both sides of the bread and place on a frypan over high heat. Pan-fry the bread until both sides are evenly coloured and crisp (about three to four minutes).Spoon and spread the ricotta evenly onto the toast and then cover with the broad beans. Arrange the small leaves of fresh mint over the broad beans and serve.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on September 30, 2017 as "Broad bean-based consumption".
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