Posted 8th June 2010 by Jenny McIvor
There's no way around it - some ingredients are just a little more high-maintenance than others. I'm thinking the artichoke; getting to the heart means first cutting away the inedible choke and leaves that surround it - a high precision job, like an excavating a delicate artefact from an archaeological site of serious historical significance. Or fruit like apricots, nectarines and peaches - even bananas. When they're really ripe the flesh can be so ready to bruise that sometimes you feel you should probably have carried them home from the supermarket on a velvet cushion, like a Disney princess.
But the extra care that each of the above needs is more than worth it in terms of the flavour payback they deliver when you eat them. And I'm putting broad beans (just now at the start of their summer-long season) in that little-bit-of-effort/high-reward category, too. Unless they're very young, small and slender the pods themselves don't make for good eating, so a session hovering over a bowl, slipping the beans out of their long green casing, is more than likely going to be part of the deal. But somehow even that's not the chore it could be; as you press down on each pod with your thumb to split it open, each one makes a satisfyingly crisp, cracking sound, and the smell - green, refreshing sap - is early summer in a single note. There's something appealingly tactile about the job, too - inside the pod the individual beans sit in plump, downy comfort, each in their own velvety hollow, like unpolished gemstones in a biodegradable jewellery case. Just run your thumb down the centre and they'll obligingly spring free.
So - you've got your bowl of newly podded broad beans in one hand, and your computer mouse poised to click on the Recipes section of this website, in the other. My top tip would be to head for Fruitalia recipe. I realise that that sounds like the kind of fantasy kingdom that might feature in a Terry Gilliam movie. In fact, it's what the Turkish call a particular type of broad bean and feta omelette or frittata, and is one of those dishes that's both ridiculously easy to make and that also largely relies, rather handily, on store cupboard ingredients. Another plus point (for me, anyway), is the fact that it calls for broad beans to be double-podded - in other words, not merely out of their pods, but out of their semi-opaque, leathery skins, too. For this recipe there's nothing to stop you dispensing with the double-podding thing if you're in a hurry, but it's a simple job. Just snip one end of the skin with your fingernail, then squeeze from the opposite end; the bare bean will slip out, glossy and emerald green. Unskinned, they're so gorgeous to look at - like polished pebbles of jade - it's a same not to show them off, and the lack of a skin gives them a lighter texture, too, which really works with the slightly squidgy centre that you're aiming for with the fruitalia (that part is particularly delicious squished onto some crusty bread).
And if you're not in a frittata type of mood, no problem - double-podded or not, broad beans go fantastically well with the kind of summer salad that doesn't really need a recipe - try them thrown together with chopped herbs like mint, dill or basil, any type of green leaf, peas or asparagus, plus a mild cheese (mozzarella, ricotta, halloumi or goat's cheese all fit the bill perfectly) or some crumbled bacon to add a bit of weight. A simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice, plus some black pepper and you're good to go.
But that's just what I'm going to be doing. Let us know how you're going to use yours.