We've never bean better! The broad bean is back in season
Broad beans are here once more, trumpeting the arrival of spring and bright green salads. Known as fava beans in America (so that's what Hannibal Lecter was talking about), these guys do not make things easy. In fact strictly speaking, they need to be peeled twice - but they are totally worth it
What am I looking for?
Each pod contains between 3 and 12 beans. Buy your beans as fresh as possible, or give yourself a very big pat on the back if you're growing them yourself. Pods should be firm and crisp, avoid any that feel soft with pockets of air inside. Look for pods with the stem end attached; that's a good sign that they were picked at full maturity, rather than being clipped from the branch.
After they've been popped out of their pod, each bean should have a velvety smooth green membrane. This can be removed by scoring with your thumbnail and peeling them off. If the beans are very large, it might be easier to blanch them first and let them cool in an ice bath.
OK. How do I cook them?
Blanch by cooking the beans in very salty boiling water for one minute. Then rinse them under cool water or throw them into a bowl of ice water for a further two minutes. Drain them and they're ready for cooking, or put them in a plastic bag, squeeze out as much air as you can and they'll keep in the freezer for a good six months.
Broad beans are delicious raw and fresh from the pod, or if you're feeling more adventurous check out some of these brilliant recipe ideas:
Broad beans, chickpea and barley salad
Bright, clean and fresh. This delicious salad has spring written all over it.
Broad bean, asparagus and prosciutto pizza
Grilled broad beans
These are wonderful tasting and feel wildly exotic. Grilled you say?! You want small, cute pods for this grilled broad bean recipe; the younger the better.
Broad bean, goats' cheese and garlic dip
Now here's a dip to whip out in front of guests. A vibrant green broad bean dip. Roll on those long evenings in the garden.
Broad bean fritters
Just a few ingredients and suddenly you've got a pretty impressive broad bean fritter on your hands.
Smashed broad beans and mozzarella
Everything about this recipe is so wonderfully fresh, plus it involves some good old fashioned smashing, so get out the pestle and mortar.
Broad bean burgers
Veggie burgers filled with chard, quinoa and the magic of spring. Perfect.