How to use and cook broad beans
Fresh broad beans or fava beans are one of the few vegetables that stick strictly to their season. You can’t buy them in winter and by summer they’ve usually faded away. No lengthy, drawn out availability, instead broad beans are strictly a product of spring.
They’re in season here in Australia at the moment and your local fruit and veg shop should have them, still in their pods. But you’d better be quick: by the mid to end of November, they’ll be gone.
I’ve been eating lots of them recently. On the days I work from home I often buy a large handful for $2 and then use them in a salad, or a rough puree to mash on toast.
In honour of this fantastic bean, I’m reposting and updating some information I blogged a couple of years ago.
Preparing broad beans
When you buy fresh broad beans, you’re buying a whole pod. As you can see from the photo on the right, the beans are nestled in a hairy cushioned lining.
The size of the beans inside the pod varies, depending on age:
- Very young broad beans, are about the size of a fingernail and these are delicious raw – no cooking or preparation required.
- Medium-sized broad beans need to be skinned, before you use them.
- Older, larger broad beans are podded and dried for later use. These have to be soaked and cooked, as you would any other dried legume.
Most of the broad beans you buy from the greengrocer will be medium sized. These beans have a thick, grey-ish outer skin, which is slightly bitter. It’s best to remove this skin before cooking, otherwise your final meal will also taste bitter. This is often referred to as double-peeling or twice peeled beans. It isn’t difficult, but it is time consuming and a little fiddly – however very worth it.
How to double-peel bread beans
- Remove the beans from the bean pod
- Place in a bowl and cover with boiling water
- Leave for about 2 minutes and then drain
- Put the beans into a bowl of cold water
- You can then peel the greeny-grey thick skin off the bean by slicing it open with your nail and then squeezing the bean out.
Your beans are now ready to be used in salads, dips and all sorts of other recipes.
How to use broad beans
I think broad beans are delicious and for me they’re one of those signs that summer is on it’s way. Fresh broad beans are only available for a short season, so take advantage of them now. Here are some of the wonderful ways you can cook them:
- I’ve been using them uncooked in a salad from Nigel Slater’s Tender – with radishes, parsley, goats’ cheese and a splash of olive oil and lemon juice.
- Lucy from Nourish Me has a recipe for spring vegetable ragout.
- Jules from Stonesoup has posted a broad bean, ricotta and mint salad.
- There are some fantastic recipes on Jamie Oliver’s site, including a Moroccan style salad, this broad bean and pancetta salad and smashed peas and beans on toast.
- Yotam Ottolenghi makes artichokes with broad beans as well as broad bean burgers.
- Lili from Pikelet and Pie has a good post on broad beans. There are pictures of what the beans look like before and during peeling and a lovely idea for mixing with feta and smoked trout.
- There are more recipes on the original post here.
Don’t let the fiddly-ness of preparing broad beans put you off. It’s a shame to miss out on this short-lived spring vegetable. I find podding, blanching and shelling the beans kind of therapeutic. You get into a routine and your mind can switch off. Alternatively, it’s also a good in-front-of-the-TV chore.
Do you use broad beans and if so, what’s your favourite recipe?
Broad bean photo by Janerc under the terms of a creative commons license