In my mind, broad beans are forever connected with my dad. When I was very young, the house we lived in had a big garden. We had the obligatory swing and slide, a cute little wooden wendy house for us to play in and a purpose built sand pit that the local cats just loved to use as their toilet of choice!
Dad claimed the top right hand corner for himself, and create three large strips for growing vegetables. I’m sure he grew many different types of produce, but the only one I remember is broad beans. His beans grew in abundance, and it seemed we had them as a vegetable every day. The problem was, I hated them! I tried to like them – after all, they were fresh and my dad had put a lot of effort into growing them, but they were just too bitter and unpalatable to an unappreciative six year old. So I chased them round the plate, tried to hide them in my lap and generally just whinged and moaned so much, my parents gave up. We moved the following year to a house with a smaller garden, so no more vegetable patch for dad, and no more broad beans for us.
It took years before I would eat the dreaded broad beans again. When I realised how beautiful and sweet they tasted once the tough outer layer was removed, I felt sad that we missed out enjoying the fruits of dad’s labour. And now I grow a few of my own veg, I also realise how much our moaning and complaining must have annoyed him!
Broad beans (otherwise known as fava beans) are packed full of flavour and fabulous nutrients, so they really are worth a try. For a start, they have loads of fibre that will keep your gut happy and healthy. They are also full of B vitamins, including folate which is an essential vitamin for cell growth and development, so perfect if you are pregnant, or planning to be. Along with the B’s, broad beans also have good amounts of minerals such as manganese, iron and magnesium and a fabulous dose of potassium. Broad beans are a good source of plant based protein too, so will help keep you full for longer.
Whilst you can buy them frozen, fresh beans are best, and although they are a little time consuming to prepare, it’s worth it. Buy juicy pods that are not too large and break them open to release the beans inside. Tiny ones don’t need the next layer removing, but in general pop your beans into a pan of boiling water to blanche for a minute or two, then drain and leave for a couple of minutes until they have cooled enough to be handled. Pinch off the outer skin to reveal the brilliant green pod within.
We had guests recently, and I served broad beans with olive tapenade as part of a tapas style meal. The strong, sharp flavours of the tapenade complements the gorgeous fragrant beans. It’s incredibly moreish, but unlike normal tapenade, this one has no added oil so is super healthy and guilt free, so you can eat it until your heart, and stomach, is content.
Why not give this a go one summer’s evening, along with some crunchy flat bread and a glass of something crisp and fresh? Cheers, dad!
Broad bean and olive tapenade (serves 4)
400g broad beans (shelled weight)
3 tablespoons pitted black olives
1 tablespoon capers
handful of chopped flat leafed parsley
handful of mint leaves, chopped
a few chives, chopped
1 small clove garlic, crushed
juice and zest of a lemon
Prepare the broad beans as mentioned above. Pop all the tapenade ingredients into a small blender and blitz for about 30 seconds – don’t over blend as you want texture, not mush. Season with some black pepper if required. Drop tapenade over the broad beans whilst they’re still warm to infuse the flavour. Can be served still warm, or cold.