Thursday, 25 September 2008

Posh Broad Beans on Toast with Jamie Oliver, Bill Granger, Maggie Beer...and a poem

A Short-lived Love Affair
Unlike many veggies which are available all year round, broad beans have a distinct season. They appear in the markets from winter into spring, and then they’re gone until next year. Of course one can find dried and frozen broad beans anytime, BUT IT”S JUST NOT THE SAME! I have to part with my lovely broad beans soon. Therefore, for the September My Legume Love Affair event, created by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook and hosted this month by Lucy of Nourish Me, I present to you these lovely Broad Beans, 3 Recipes that accentuate all their goodness, and a Poem.

Broad beans are also known as field, winter, tick, horse, English, Windsor, faba or fava beans. Bean Beans are among the oldest cultivated crops a legume, it is a distant cousin to the garden snap bean. Like all legumes, broad beans are rich in protein, iron, zinc and fibre.

Playing with food is fun!

Select the smallest broad-bean pods you can find or, if you have a garden supply, pick the smallest ones first to eat whole and then the larger ones later to eat shelled. Go for bright perky-looking beans and avoid any that appear tired or floppy.


Preparing broad beans is a labour of love. It’s fiddly but easy. Put on your iPod, MP3 player, CD. Then, remove the beans from the shell. Next, to make it easier to peel away the tougher outer skin, blanch the beans in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds - bring a pan of water to the boil, toss in the beans, and let the water come to the boil again, which usually takes about 30 seconds. This loosens the outer skin on the broad beans, which can easily slip off. The bean is now "double peeled".

(Sources: Steve Manfredi, Burkes Backyard)

from Two Aussie cooks Maggie Beer and Bill Granger, and Jamie Oliver. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of these dishes because these beans never made it to the bread this time round because I was popping them in my mouth like popcorn! I love all three recipes because it brings out the best of fresh broad beans so do try them. If you really have to, frozen broad beans can be substituted.

Broad Beans with Pecorino
by Maggie Beers
From the TV series The cook and the Chef

3 cups broad beans
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (evoo) plus last moment drizzle
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
80-100g pecorino
4 slices sourdough bread for bruschetta

Serves 4. Maggie sorts large pods and small pods into different piles before peeling, and where possible uses the smaller ones. Blanch the broad beans in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes and refresh in cold water immediately. Heat a grill pan until hot, brush the slices of sourdough with a little olive oil and grill until well toasted on each side.

Add a little more evoo to the beans. Mix with mint and a little more evoo as needed. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Spoon onto the grilled bruschetta and serve with shavings of pecorino and an extra drizzle of evoo.

Broad Bean, Feta and Mint Bruchetta
by Bill Granger

500g broad beans
80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
100g creamy feta
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp finely shredded mint
Chargrilled bread, to serve

Blanch the broad beans in a saucepan of lightly boiling water for 2-3 minutes or until just tender. Rinse under cold running water and drain well. Peel outer skins.

Place broad beans, olive oil, feta, lemon juice and garlic in a blender or food processor and process until a rough paste. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add mint and pulse for a few seconds until just combined.

Incredible smashed peas and broad beans on toast
from Jamie at Home

Jamie warns: “Don’t use frozen peas and broad beans for this because it sort of misses the point. Made with raw peas and sweet fresh broad beans, the whole thing will taste alive and just like summer.”

700g broad beans in their pods (about 250g shelled weight)
500g peas in their pods (about 150g shelled weight)
a small bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
50g finely grated fresh pecorino cheese, plus extra for serving
juice of 1 lemon
4 slices of sourdough bread
1 clove of garlic, unpeeled, cut in half
2 large balls of buffalo mozzarella cheese, torn in half
a handful of pea shoots

Serves 4. Pod the peas and broad beans, keeping them separate. Put any really small ones to one side to use in the salad.

This next bit is best done in a pestle and mortar, in batches if necessary. (You can pulse it in a food processor instead, but you won’t end up with the lovely bashed and bruised flavour that makes this dish incredible.) Bash up half the mint leaves with the peas and a pinch of salt. Add the broad beans a few at a time and crush to a thick green paste.

Mash in a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to make the paste spreadable. Stir in the pecorino. If the mixture is a bit stiff, add a little more oil to loosen it. Add about three-quarters of the lemon juice – this will bring it all together. Have a taste and see what you think. You want the richness of the pecorino and the oil to balance nicely with the freshness of the peas, beans and mint. Adjust seasoning if needed.

Toast the bread on both sides, either on a barbecue or in a hot griddle pan. Rub each slice twice only (very important) with the cut side of the garlic and top with some smashed peas and half a ball of mozzarella.

Dress the pea shoots, the remaining mint leaves and the reserved small peas and beans with the rest of the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and scatter this salad over the crostini. Finish with a little more olive oil and a grating of pecorino.

Check out how Jamie plates the dish here. Soooo gooooood!

Lastly, a Poem
(This must be my longest post ever!) If you feel inclined....Australian poet Les Murray accurately and humorously described the appeal of broad bean pods in The Broad Bean Sermon:

The Broad Bean Sermon
© Les Murray, Lunch and Counter Lunch 1974

Beanstalks, in any breeze, are a slack church parade
without belief, saying trespass against us in unison,
recruits in mint Air Force dacron, with unbuttoned leaves.

Upright with water like men, square in stem-section
they grow to great lengths, drink rain, keel over all ways,
kink down and grow up afresh, with proffered new greenstuff.

Above the cat-and-mouse floor of a thin bean forest
snails hang rapt in their food, ants hurry through several dimensions:
spiders tense and sag like little black flags in their cordage.

Going out to pick beans with the sun high as fence-tops, you find
plenty, and fetch them. An hour or a cloud later
you find shirtfulls more. At every hour of daylight

appear more than you missed: ripe, knobbly ones, fleshy-sided,
thin-straight, thin-crescent, frown-shaped, bird-shouldered, boat-keeled ones,
beans knuckled and single-bulged, minute green dolphins at suck,

beans upright like lecturing, outstretched like blessing fingers
in the incident light, and more still, oblique to your notice
that the noon glare or cloud-light or afternoon slants will uncover

till you ask yourself Could I have overlooked so many, or
do they form in an hour? unfolding into reality
like templates for subtly broad grins, like unique caught expressions,

like edible meanings, each sealed around with a string
and affixed to its moment, an unceasing colloquial assembly,
the portly, the stiff, anf those lolling in pointed green slippers ...

Wondering who’ll take the spare bagfulls, you grin with happiness
– it is your health – you vow to pick them all
even the last few, weeks off yet, misshapen as toes.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Spring into Lavender Shortbread

Today is the first day of Spring down under. I knew that spring was coming because I could her the "tweet! tweet! tweet!" from the baby and mommy birds at dawn....and when my lavender bush started to flower for the first time a few weeks ago. Quikong planted this lavender bush many months ago as a surprise because he knew that lavender is my favourite essential oil. I love rolling the fresh flowers between my palms and breathing in its soothing aroma. Even the leaves and stems of the lavender has a fragrance.

After an exhausting but rewarding pre-spring cleaning weekend, I thought that these Lavender Shortbreads were the perfect way to welcome spring. Although Quikong was initially apprehensive about consuming lavender, even he was surprised how delicious these were.

I used this Lavender Shortbread recipe from Jen of Milk & Cookies (thanks, Jen!!) who adapted it from this award winning matcha (green tea) shortbread recipe. The result was as Jen promised - "blissful buttery texture that melts in your mouth....aromatic sweetness". It also keeps its shape perfectly (great for more elaborate shapes if you wish) and is simple to make.

Kitchen Notes:
- I didn't coat the cookies in granulated sugar before baking.
- Make sure that you use lavender specifically for baking. The ones for potpourri usually has chemicals added into them.
- Vary the strength of the lavender aroma:
(a) Stronger: For a stronger lavender flavour without adding more dried lavender - crush the lavender in a mortar and pestle and let the aroma infuse over night by mixing the crushed flower into the sugar.
(b) More subtle: Omit the dried lavender. Instead, roll a few whole fresh lavender stems between your palms and place it in the sugar overnight. Remove the lavender before using the sugar in the recipe.

I think these shortbreads are rather elegant and make great gifts. Since the recipe uses dried lavender, you do not have to wait for spring to make these shortbread.

To our Muslim readers: Wishing you all a blessed month of Ramadan. These shortbreads and a cup of tea could be a sweet way to break a day of fasting. :-)