When broad beans (also known as fava beans) are in season in early summer, you may wonder which is the best way to make the most of them. Broad beans can be big and rather tasteless, so it is important to choose the right ones and cook them correctly. The small, early season ones are the best. When they are young they do not have the hard outer layer in the bean that they develop later in the season and they can be incredibly sweet and juicy – not at all like the ones you may have had for your school dinners in the past!
Ideally buy from local green grocers or Farmers Markets for the very best juicy ones, rather than the supermarket. You will really taste the difference. Or if you are a gardener, it seems that broad beans are easy to grow and are beneficial to have in your garden. I am not an experienced gardener and will certainly leave it to the experts to explain more about growing broad beans
Healthy And Tasty Broad Beans
There is little doubt that like all beans, broad beans are incredibly good for you being high in fibre, protein and vitamins. It is important not to overcook the beans so they retain their fresh taste and their nutrients. They only need a few minutes boiling, if you are eating them plain as a side vegetable.
Broad beans, along side cauliflower, have had a bad press. If you have experienced large, tough and bitter beans in the past, it is hard to be persuaded to try again. So if that is the case, do let this recipe attempt to change your mind about them.
Classic, Easy Risotto
Risottos are always a good way to use vegetables and mix together your favourite. The cheese, herbs and stock add extra flavour. The recipe below calls for risotto – arborio rice. This is best for its short grains and chewy, creamy texture. However you can use any rice such as long grain or basmati rice – it is really a matter of personal taste.
When cooking keep adding the stock gradually throughout the cooking as the rice absorbs the liquid, and be prepared to a bit more than the recipe says, if it seems to require it, to ensure the rice is thoroughly cooked and you have some moisture in the finished risotto.
If you are cooking for vegetarians, be sure to use vegetarian cheese. Parmesan contains rennet, an animal based substance. In the strict sense, there is no such thing as vegetarian parmesan, since parmesan cheese must contain animal rennet to qualify for the name. However, it is possible to get ‘parmesan-style’ cheese that is suitable for vegetarians.
Risotto With Any Vegetable
This recipe can be adapted to use other vegetables – mushrooms, courgettes, sweetcorn, green or red peppers. Choose your vegetables and make a risotto. Nuts, such as cashew nuts is a good addition and adds protein too! Vary the flavourings according to taste. And if you have some leftover it will keep in the fridge for a few days and is delicious re-heated.
Just a word on blanching – this simply means plunging the beans into a large pan of boiling water for just 30 seconds so they do not require much cooking in the rice, as most of the stock will have been absorbed.
Broad Bean And Pea Risotto
- 1 onion peeled and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 300g /10oz risotto rice (arborio)
- 1 litre vegetable stock
- 750g /1.5lb broad beans, removed from the pod
- 150g / 6oz frozen peas (or fresh podded peas)
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 100g Parmesan cheese
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan
- Add the onion and fry until soft
- Add the garlic and cook for a minute
- Add the rice, stirring to coat with remaining oil and cook for 2-3 minutes
- Add half the stock and continue adding more when it is almost all absorbed
- Add the paprika and cumin and stir
- When the risotto is nearly cooked, blanche the broad beans
- Add the beans and peas to the risotto, adding more stock if necessary
- Once the beans and peas are cooked, stir in the Parmesan cheese
- Add ground black pepper to taste
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