This recipe has been a long time coming, let me tell you. The reason being it requires the very young pods of broad beans (or fava beans if you live in the Americas). The pods are cooked and eaten whole. If you’ve ever shelled your own broad beans, you will know that the pods are pretty tough, so if you are going to attempt this recipe, you will need young pods coming in at a length of three inches or less.
Of course, to acquire such pods you need grow your own, or know someone who grows their own. I chose the former of the two. Year after year I abysmally failed to grow them in pots in the back yard of my little Manchester terraced house. I tried again on my balcony in St Louis when I lived in America. I came to the conclusion that I had a complete lack of green fingers.
It wasn’t until I got an allotment – and therefore actual real, deep earth – to sow my beans that I found they are, in fact, extremely easy to grow and maintain. They just need planting about eight inches apart in rows spaced the same distance. They germinate and grow pretty quickly and don’t even require bean poles.
Piece of piss.
Before I give you the recipe, it’s worth mentioning that Jane gives us a little advice on how to cook, and how to eat, fully grown broad beans:
As broad beans grow larger, they need to be shelled. Then I would recommend boiling them, until the skins begin to crack, in salted water. Drain them, rinse under the cold tap and then peel off the skins. This is, I know, a chore but it makes all the difference. The broad bean season is so short that it is worth taking the trouble… The beans can then be reheated in a little butter and parsley, in bacon fat with the addition of crumbled, crisp bacon rashers, or with a little butter and a few tablespoons of cream, as an accompaniment to boiled ham or salt pork – don’t forget the parsley.
I agree with this advice, though I’ll add that if the beans are on the small side, there is no point in peeling them, and even large ones when freshly-picked are still pretty good unpeeled. The other thing to mention is that broad beans cooked in bacon fat with crispy bacon and parsley can be promoted to a heavenly dish if you fry some floured sweetbreads in that salty-sweet fat too alongside those other ingredients.
This recipe requires 2 pounds of young broad beans, and apparently serves four as a first course, which I think is a bit much. You’ll see that this recipe can be very easy scaled down. I think a small handful each would be a good amount. Also, I can’t imagine you’d want to pick 2 pounds of the small pods! It would be quite a loss to your future broad bean harvest; unless you’re a bean farmer and have an acre of the buggers.
However many you get, you need to top and tail them. Drop them into boiling salted water and ‘simmer until they are tender’, says Jane ‘test them after 15 minutes.’ Let me say now that 15 minutes is far, far too long! In the 1970s when this book was written, there was a tendency to cook vegetables far too long so that they ended not ‘tender’ but pappy mush. Jane usually likes her vegetables crisp, but some of the timings are way off for modern/my tastes (a similar thing happened when I cooked #176 Samphire). I found 5 minutes cooked the pods through, leaving them tender but still with a little bite.
Strain the beans tip them into a serving dish, pepper them and keep them warm whilst you melt 6 ounces of butter. ‘Sharpen the butter with…lemon juice, heat it to just below boiling point and put it into a small jug.’
Then eat them ‘like asparagus, in the fingers, or with knives and forks’. I always go for the fingers option with food, unless I can help it (e.g. soup).
#398 Broad Beans in their Pods. I must say, these pods were delicious; full of sweetness and, just like fresh peapods, a great intensity of flavour. Next year, I am going to sow many more plants so that I can get a pod crop as well as a bean crop. I think they would make a great alternative to spinach in eggs Florentine, or on thick buttered toast with shaved, grilled Parmesan cheese. Very tasty and huge potential with this one 8.5/10