The humble broad bean can be a divisive ingredient; when I posted a photo of a brown paper bag of these glorious green goddesses on my Instagram account, around a quarter of the comments I received were from haterz, and I must admit, I used to be one of them.
As a child, I was occasionally served broad beans, cooked in chewy, barely digestible pods, and it took me until well into adulthood to even go near them again. And then I discovered ‘double-podding’. Not just slipping them from their blankety beds with a deftly-applied flick of a well-exercised thumb, but also removing that thick, barely penetrable, greyish skin to reveal a nub of the brightest green, as round and fresh and delectable as the most petit of peas. This, dear reader, changed everything.
Now, double-podding broad beans is a slow process, so do it in front of the telly, or when you have a little end-of-day stress to work out with a small sharp knife and a few minutes of patience.
If you lack the latter, you can substitute them with a mixture of canned white beans and a shake of frozen peas, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, for even the most hardened broad-despiser may change their minds on discovering that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. I folded through a sad bag of salad that I found for 9p in the reduced chiller of my local Tesco, but any herbs or leaves will do. You could even treat yourself, and use fresh ones that aren’t blackening around the edges, but if you have those kind of riches kicking around, you should probably be signed up to my Patreon 😉
I got my broad beans from the greengrocer at £1/400g, but I’m not expecting you all to schlep down to me, so if you don’t have a brilliant greengrocer nearby, I found you a few options. Tesco sell them tinned for 55p/300g. Waitrose have them frozen for £1.40/750g. Sainsburys sell them fresh for £1.50/500g. If you find any more bargainous broads, do ping me a message and let me know!
Serves 4 from 18p each
200g broad beans, 50p (local greengrocer)
4 flat cloves of garlic, or adjust to taste, 7p (20p/bulb, Asda)
2 tbsp oil, 3p (97p/1l, sunflower oil at Asda)
1 tbsp lemon juice, 2p (39p/250ml, Asda)
A bag of salad leaves or herbs, 9p (reduced, Tesco Express)
If using fresh broad beans, they will first need to be podded. I find the easiest way to do this is to twist the pods hard in the middle then ‘pop’ the beans out, but everyone finds their own rhythm with tasks like this. Try a few bashes, smashes and slashes and see what works for you. If using canned broad beans, simply open the tin, drain and rinse them, and laugh at how simple it was.
Next, halve each bean lengthways to create two wide, flat beans, and peel the white leathery skin away. Discard it; I pop mine in the local food waste bin, but they can be ground up and folded through compost along with the pods, for extra goodness in the soil, if you are into that kind of thing. I do keep meaning to cover tiny urban gardening somewhere, as I have been doing it for years; perhaps this is the nudge I need to finally write about it!
Pop the naked beans into a small pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer. Peel and finely slice the garlic and add that too. Simmer gently for around 20 minutes, until the beans are super-soft and falling apart around the edges. Turn the heat up again and reduce the liquid down to barely-anything-at-all, keeping an eye on it and stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking and burning and spoiling all of your hard work.
Remove the beans from the heat and mash well with a fork or masher, to form a rough paste. Add the oil and lemon juice and stir through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
If adding the salad leaves to make it nice and green, as I did, simply chop them to smithereens with a large, heavy knife. My wrists are weakened with arthritis more days than not nowadays, so I confess to using a small bullet blender for this job now, but for many years a simple chefs knife and some perseverance did the job just fine.
Stir the leaves through the puree for a peppery kick and an instant hit of easy goodness. Use as a dip for chips, pitta breads or flatbreads, or the base for a gorgeous warm potato salad.
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