There was a time, not so long ago, that I would have rather gone hungry than eat a plateful of broad beans. I viewed them with the dark suspicion usually reserved for foods like tripe or aspic – those strange oddities of yesteryear that you truly had to grow up with to appreciate. My mum on the other hand loved broad beans, and I remember seeing them bobbing around ominously in opened tins in the fridge, and thanking my lucky stars that she kept her broad bean habit to herself and never tried to sneak them into our dinners.
For years, this remained my attitude to broad beans. But then I made the most miraculous discovery. I discovered that if you slip off the broad bean’s dreary and waterlogged outer exterior, inside, you’ll find an altogether different bean. It’s greener, it’s sweeter, it’s fragrant and…there’s really no denying it – it’s deliciously, moreishly tasty! Frankly, it’s nothing short of a miracle. And that, my friends, is why I happily spent half an hour shelling broad beans this evening, even though that is about 29 minutes more bean-related faff than my patience will usually allow.
And once the beautiful little emerald kernels were released, I introduced them to a little bit of piggy salty richness, and livened them up with a zing of lemon and then the little beauties really sang. Which is how tonight I ended up doing something I didn’t think I’d ever do. I ate a whole plateful of broad beans for my dinner. I’m fairly certain my mother would be proud.
- 1 kg fresh broad beans, in their pods (about 400g podded weight), or…
- 600g frozen broad beans or…
- 600g drained tinned broad beans
- 80g pancetta, cubed
- 3 large-bulbed spring onions (or 6 small ones)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 lemon
- Olive oil
- Small bunch of parsley
- If using fresh or frozen broad beans: Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the beans and cook for 2-3 minutes if fresh, 4 minutes if frozen. Drain the beans and plunge into cold water to halt cooking, then press the skins lightly at one end to slide each bean out of its outer shell. If using tinned broad beans: Drain the beans and rinse in water, then press the skins lightly at one end to slide each bean out of its outer shell.
- Heat a dry frying pan until hot, then add the pancetta and fry for 2-3 minutes until it begins to release its fat.
- Finely slice the spring onions and garlic, then add to the frying pan, along with a little extra olive oil to avoid sticking if necessary.
- Saute the spring onions and garlic until softened, then add the de-shelled beans, the juice of half of the lemon and seasoning to taste. Cover the frying pan and cook on a low heat until the beans are soft. Just before serving, chop the parsley and scatter on top, along with the remaining juice of the lemon.