Friday, 13 June 2008
Why skin broad beans?
Broad beans (fava beans in the US), in season right now, are one of my favourite vegetables. They're also one of the most wasteful since chefs collectively decided that we must not only pod them but skin them.
It's true that the greyish, wrinkly skin doesn't look particularly attractive. But it's tasty and not too tough unless you're dealing with the last beans of the season. True, too, that the tiny jewel-like emerald green beans inside are prettier in salads and dishes like risotto. But there are many dishes such as the rustic one below, from my book Meat and Two Veg, where they're absolutely fine.
I never used to skin broad beans and when I first heard of the idea I thought that no-one would want to faff about popping them out of their skins. But it seems we do - odd when so many people can't even be bothered to wash a lettuce these days.
So are you a bean-skinner or do you leave them on?
Boiled bacon with broad beans and parsley sauce
1.5kg piece smoked collar of bacon or gammon, soaked overnight in cold water*
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3 or 4 pieces
1 stick of celery, washed, trimmed and cut into 3 pieces (optional)
a few peppercorns
For the sauce
1 small onion, peeled and halved
350ml whole or semi-skimmed milk
25g plain flour
400g fresh or frozen broad beans (podded weight)
A small bunch or pack of parsley (about 20g), destalked and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Drain the bacon, put in a large saucepan and cover with fresh, cold water. Bring slowly to the boil and skim off any froth. Tuck the vegetables round the sides, add the peppercorns bring back to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer very slowly so that bubbles just break on the surface for about 2 hours. About an hour before the bacon is due to be ready put an onion and bayleaf in a small pan and pour over the milk. Heat slowly until the milk is almost boiling then take off the heat, cover and set aside for half an hour. Cook the broad beans lightly (about 5 minutes) and drain. Pass the milk through a sieve into a jug. Heat the butter gently in a non-stick pan, stir in the flour and cook for a few seconds. Pour in the warm milk in one go whisking as you pour. Replace over a low heat, bring up to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for a few minutes until the sauce thickens, adding a couple of tablespoons of the ham cooking liquid to get a nice light texture. Tip in the drained broad beans and stir in the parsley. Check the seasoning adding salt and pepper to taste. Carve the ham in thick slices and serve with the broad beans and parsley sauce and some new potatoes.
* If you don’t remember to soak the bacon just cover it with cold water, bring to the boil and discard the water.