Broad bean, pea and mint spread

Bearing in mind I eat a plant based diet, it’s just as well that I like most vegetables. And as time goes by and tastes change, I’ve found those that I didn’t like when I was younger seem to be more palatable today; celery is an example of this. I couldn’t stand the stuff and had no idea how people could just munch away on celery sticks and nothing else to disguise the flavour. Nowadays, I have to admit I’ve discovered it’s not as bad as previously thought, and can munch away quite happily with the rest of them!

Broad beans, however, have been more of a challenge. I developed a real aversion to them, maybe connected tochildhood memories of my dad’s vegetable patch. I can’t remember him growing anything else but broad beans (which I’m sure is not true!) and vividly recall having them served up as a vegetable, forcing myself to eat them so as not to offend his wonderful green fingered efforts. But to me they were bitter, woody nuggets that had an odd tangy aroma and I really didn’t enjoy them one bit.

My dad eventually gave up growing veg and so for years I managed to avoid broad beans; if they appeared in a dish at a restaurant I would pick them out and leave them on the side as even the smell of them was too much.

Broad beans seems to have become quite trendy in the last few years, popularised by celebrity chefs and featuring as a seasonal crop in my weekly veg box. But still I managed to avoid them, changing my box order to ensure they didn’t get delivered. Browsing through recipes recently, I realised that maybe the broad beans of my childhood could have been more tasty if they had been served in a different way.

The beans come in a large, thick fibrous pod that, unlike other beans, can’t be eaten. Once shelled, they have a greyish-green outer cover – if the beans are very young and tender, apparently this layer tastes ok, but if the beans are larger and more mature, it’s bitter and unpleasant – the feature of my childhood memories! Broad beans have to be double podded. This may be well known, but it was a revelation to me!  Once shelled, they should be popped into boiling water and simmered for a few minutes, drained and refreshed with cold water. Then the outer skin comes off quite easily to reveal gorgeously vibrant, tender green beans underneath.

Now, they still have a ‘broad bean taint’ to them, but they certainly taste quite different, and the bitterness changes to a fresh, almost sweet taste. For me, I still can’t eat them by themselves, but fortunately they combine well with other flavours, particularly mint for a vibrant, spring flavour. Which is good news, as broad beans are actually really good for you and a great source of protein in a plant based whole food diet. On top of that, they are an amazing source of fibre, essential for maintaining gut health, as well as a whole range of B vitamins, iron, manganese and potassium, although some of that will be lost in the cooking process.

Even though I find broad beans slightly more acceptable, I still avoid having them; last week I forgot to change my veg box order though, and a whole bag of them arrived. Eating dairy free and plant based can sometimes create lunch time challenges, especially with sandwich fillings; sometimes even hummus can get boring.  So I decided to create a broad bean based spread; I found a couple of recipes but they included a large amount of oil which I try to avoid. So instead, I just went the natural route and simply combined broad beans, mint, peas and a little seasoning. It makes a green gloop which has a fabulously rich but fresh flavour and is amazingly healthy with no added fat and all that great fibre.

With a taste like this, I seem to have become a broad bean convert – give a go and see what you think.

Broad bean, pea and mint spread
300g broad bean, podded150g peas (frozen is fine)
handful fresh mint
small clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
Bring a pan of water to the boil and simmer broad beans for a few minutes until the skin starts to wrinkle (try to ignore the strong broad bean aroma that reminds you of your childhood!). Add the peas near the end to cook for a couple of minutes. Drain and refresh with cold water. Once the eans are cool enough to handle, peel off the tough outer layer. Put the beans, peas, mint, garlic, salt and pepper into a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and add extra seasoning if required. Serve either on toasted baguette, baked potato, as a dip, with a salad, or however you so desire.

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