This has been our first year growing a lot of things, including broad beans. The fact that they are hardy plants that can be sown directly in the ground fairly early in the year while the weather is still cold makes them an attractive allotment staple now for us. They were also one of the first things to flower, which made the bees very happy. Very little effort is really needed to grow broad beans except for keeping tabs on black fly! Infestations are hard to avoid, but regularly inspecting plants and picking off and crushing any flies can help to control them. Generally black fly won’t have a huge impact on the whole plant, but they can definitely do damage to new shoots, so they’re still worth keeping an eye on. Thankfully we’ve seen a good number of ladybirds as well as their larvae on our beans, so we’re encouraging them as much as possible.
Broad beans don’t seem to be all that popular as vegetables go, but they are a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and iron. Fun broad bean fact: there’s archaeological evidence to suggest broad beans may have been the first food cultivated by man. The fact the beans can be dried and stored made them a staple food until they were ultimately superseded by the potato.
There’s a slightly fiddly, but all-important knack to making broad beans delicious: double podding. After removing the beans from their main pod, they still have a coating around the central seed which can be quite bitter and chewy, and not all that pleasant to eat. The key is to blanch the beans so that these coatings start to split and then popping out the vibrant green, sweet and juicy centres. It’s a faff if you’re using broad beans in any great quantity, but I have to say it’s a must.
This dish screams summer as it’s so green, so vibrant, so fresh, and (double-podding aside) it’s pretty simple. I’d recommend going steady on salt because if you’re using anchovies they will provide more than enough seasoning. Anchovies are optional of course as is the pecorino/parmesan, although this adds a nice bit of depth to the broad beans. Nothing a little nooch wouldn’t also do, I would imagine.
Broad Bean Toasts with Pickled Onions & Anchovies Recipe
For the pickled onions:
- 1/2 red onion
- 50ml cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tbsp sugar
For the crushed broad beans:
- 150g broad beans, podded
- 50g peas
- Olive oil
- Juice of 1/2 lemon, or 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp pecorino, parmesan, or vegetarian/vegan alternative
- 1 tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 4 small slices or 1 larger slices of sourdough
- 1 clove garlic
- salt & pepper to taste
- 6-8 anchovies
- First, make your quick pickled red onions. Put the kettle on to boil while you heat the vinegar, sugar and salt in a small pan until the sugar and salt have dissolved. When the kettle is ready, pour the water over the onions to soften them, and allow them to drain completely. Transfer to a small non-metal bowl and pour the vinegar over them. Ideally leave them for around 2 hours, but don’t worry if you don’t have that kind of time.
- Boil the broad beans for 3 minutes. Drain and refresh with ice water before removing the skins.
- Boil the peas for 2 mins and drain into the beans. Mash together with a fork.
- Pour in the olive oil, lemon juice and season to taste. Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Stir in the cheese, mint and adjust the seasoning if needed.
- Toast or grill the sourdough, cut the garlic clove in half and lightly rub the cut edge across the surface of the toasted bread. Spread the bean mixture over the toast and top with anchovies and pickled onions.
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