Every year, prompted by fond memories of Mum’s walled veggie garden, I fall once again for the great broad (aka fava) bean trick. One look in the catalogues at those pictures of plump pods bursting with the promise of beautiful green beans and I’m off again. I sow the big brown seeds early in my lovingly home-made compost in the greenhouse. They come up a treat (this is the easy bit). Later I transfer them into the garden. They grow to about a foot high and then I have to rig up a whole complicated system of sticks and string so they don’t collapse. Each plant (the ones the pigeons don’t get) duly gets an infestation of blackfly. In the end I get – at the very most – two measly, brown-stained pods per plant. Bah humbug.
So why do I keep flagellating myself over broad beans? Because I love them, lurking in their big nubbly furry pods. They have a unique flavour, a comfortingly starchy texture and a touch of leathery bitterness. Plus they’re not very easy to find fresh in the shops here in Alsace. And even if I do find them, they’re always too big and mealy.
But now I’ve I discovered the Picard trump card. Picard is a French frozen food chain that sells all manner of wonderful things: roasted peppers, aubergines and courgettes, morels, ceps, perfectly trimmed artichoke hearts, foie gras, wicked desserts good enough to present at a dinner party… and broad beans. Not just tiny, pinkie fingernail-sized ones, but also larger ones that the folks at Picard have taken the trouble to divest of their leathery skins.
I feel quite liberated at the thought I’ll never need to grow them again. Now when I feel a broad bean hummus coming on, all I need do is nip round to Picard, muster some of my best Catalan olive oil, chop up a little basil (or coriander/cilantro), fling it all in the blender with a smidge of lemon juice et voilà: a dip to die for. I love it slathered over oatcakes or toasted baguette, or some of those nice little wheaten sesame/linseed crackers. It also lends itself to serving with grilled chicken, veal or lamb.
BROAD BEAN HUMMUS (from fresh green broad/fava beans, not dried)
225g peeled, frozen broad beans
juice of 1 lime or ½ a lemon
3 tablespoons chopped basil (or coriander)
50ml/3 tablespoons olive oil
50g cream cheese (e.g. St Moret)
a pinch of crushed chiles or piment d’Espelette
1 tablespoon mixed seeds
- Defrost the beans and put them in a food processor or blender
- Add the lime or lemon juice, basil or coriander and process to a smooth paste
- With the motor still running, drizzle in the olive oil; scrape down the sides and re-blend
- Add the cream cheese, crushed chiles or Piment d’Espelette salt to taste, and blend again
- Tip the mixture into a small dish or bowl and refrigerate
- Put the seeds in a small frying pan without any extra oil (they have enough of their own) and heat steadily, shaking the pan from time to time, till the seeds are golden brown and fragrant
- Sprinkle them over the hummus just before serving