This is my first year growing broad beans, and I’ve got so many. Any ideas what I can do with them?
Nothing says summer quite like the unzipping of those fluffy jackets, so this is a nice problem to have, Liz. The good news is that, whatever their age, broad beans always have a use. Chef Henrietta Inman, who cooks and bakes using only natural, locally-sourced ingredients, eats the young pods whole, raw with butter and salt (you could add chopped mint, too), with bagna cauda or a pulse-based dip. That doesn’t automatically mean chickpeas, though: “There are so many other interesting beans and pulses growing in the UK,” she says. Her favourites come from Hodmedods, pioneer of UK-grown pulses, from quinoa to carlin peas, which she soaks, cooks and blends with herbs and olive or rapeseed oil. Cooked broads are reserved for tossing through salads and pasta, or for serving with grilled lamb. Simple, yes, but, as Inman points out, “You don’t want to do too much to them, because they’re tasty as they are.”
When pairing broads with other veg, Inman lives by the mantra, “What grows together, goes together”, which, right now, means spinach, chard, mangetout and lettuce. And don’t forget the humble pea, which she blends with broad beans, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, before adding herbs (mint, parsley, thyme) and grated or crumbled English cheese (“something goat- or feta-like”), before shaping into patties and baking. Broads also welcome spice, so fill your boots with cumin, coriander or panch phoran.
As for podding, doing the double may seem a faff, but it’s worth the effort. Plus, says Nena Foster, nutritional chef and fermenter, it will keep children entertained, if only for a few minutes. Freezing is perhaps the simplest solution for a glut, with the pods perfect for future veg stock and pre-blanched frozen beans ready for soups and risotto. As Foster says, “They’re such a summery reminder, so it’s nice to have some for when it’s grey again.”
For Greg Cazenave of London’s Moxon’s fishmongers, broad beans mean fish stew: “Cuttlefish, tiger or king prawns, squid or monkfish all work really well.” He then adds green and yellow peppers, paprika, cumin or curry powder. Rick and Katie Toogood, from seafood restaurant Prawn on the Lawn, whose Padstow arm is going alfresco next month at nearby Trerethern Farm, meanwhile, mix blitzed cooked beans with potato, crab and chilli, then shape into cakes, fry and serve with coriander-spiked yoghurt. Alternatively, treat beans as you would avocado, they say: “Boil, blitz and mix with salt, pepper and lime juice. Spread on soda bread and top with cooked prawns, chilli and more lime juice.”
Fermenting is always a smart idea when faced with excess veg. Foster starts with a 2-3% brine solution (water and pure salt), then adds lemon rind, tarragon and the beans. Once fermented, they’ll sit happily alongside a cheeseboard or aperitif with fermented whole gooseberries. The brine can also be used to flavour soups, stews and pesto. “Combine blanched broad beans, brine, herbs and garlic for a fermented version,” Foster suggests, “or make a probiotic hummus by replacing some of the water and olive oil with brine.”
When your beans have produced their last pod, don’t uproot them, says Guardian gardening columnist Alys Fowler. “If you cut them off at the base, leaving a 5cm stem, and water, it may reshoot,” she says. If it does, soft new growths will appear ready to be cooked: “They have a delicious, broad bean flavour but are leafy.” They’re tops (sorry).
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