If planted in autumn, broad beans may crop as early as May, making a very welcome early crop. However, over-wintering has never been successful for me, the beans tend to rot in the ground, and consequently we get our crop much later. The beans all reach optimum size within just a few weeks – leave them to get too big and the texture becomes mealy. So there is often a glut to use up, although luckily they freeze well.
When cooking broad beans removing the skins, although time consuming, really pays dividends. Unless the beans are very small (fingernail sized) the skin is quite bitter and it is this that causes many people to dislike broad beans. The bright green colour of the skinned beans is so much more appetizing too.
Here are some of my favourite ways to use a glut:
CHILLED BROAD BEAN SOUP
1½ lb young broad beans (shelled weight – buy almost 3 times the weight in the pod)
1½ pints chicken stock
heaped tbsp. of chopped marjoram (or try mint or savory)
juice of ¾ of a lemon
salt and pepper
3 fl oz double cream
3 fl oz yoghurt
additional herbs for serving
Cook the shelled broad beans in boiling water for 5 minutes. Run the beans under cold water until they are cool enough to handle. Remove the skins and purée with the hot chicken stock. After puréeing pass through a sieve so that the purée is really smooth.
Stir in the chopped herbs and the lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste.
Chill for 4 hours then serve in small bowls garnished with the cream, yoghurt and additional fresh herb leaves.
BROAD BEAN AND FETA DIP
1.5 kg broad beans
200g feta cheese
Shell the broad beans and then cook them in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and cool. Once cool enough to handle remove the skins from the beans.
Put the peeled beans into a food processor with the crumbled feta cheese and the leaves from a few sprigs of thyme. Process to combine, and then add a good grind of black pepper and the juice of half a lemon. The Feta is quite salty, so you probably won’t need to add any more salt but taste again once the olive oil is added. This should be added in a stream whilst the processor is running, enough to give the consistency you desire.
BROAD BEAN, MINT AND FETA FRITTATA
1lb broad beans (unshelled weight)
4 cooked new potatoes
2-3 eggs (depending on size)
4 sprigs of fresh mint
salt & pepper
2 oz feta cheese
Slice the potatoes and brown them on both sides in olive oil in a 6″ omelette pan. Meanwhile put a saucepan of water on to boil whilst you shell the broad beans. Cook the beans in the boiling water for 3 minutes, drain and run cold water over them. When cool enough to handle remove the skins from all the beans that are larger than your fingernail. Whilst you are doing this turn the grill to it’s highest setting.
Beat the eggs together and then mix in the chopped mint, broad beans and some salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the potato slices and cook over a high heat until the base is set. Crumble over the feta cheese and place under the grill to puff and brown the top of the frittata.