I bought some broad beans in the Lower Marsh Market on Saturday. Bio-dynamic broad beans, even! I wanted to cook them soon while still fresh as can be, so I pondered during the day on the best way to showcase them for supper tonight. Fresh broad beans at this time of the year are such a wonderful delicacy. I’ve cooked them before on these pages: Broad Bean, Pea & Mint Salad and an Asparagus & Broad Bean Carbonara. I decided on a pasta dish; trofie because I like them and that was the best of the selection of pasta in my cupboard. And … mmmm … a little prosciutto … a little mint … a dash of cream, I thought. A good sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan, a good grating of black pepper. Perfect!
It all came together very quickly. This is more instant supper than those instant meals you buy in supermarkets. A good meal can be prepared in a few minutes! First of all pod your beans (I’m not sure how many I had – about 8 pods). It’s really simple: just crack open the pods along a ‘seam’ and then push the beans out. Put into a pan of salted water, bring to the boil and cook for about 5 minutes. You’ll notice them starting to go a little grey. Drain and drop into a bowl of cold water. When they are cool enough to handle, slit each pod along the seam and pop the bean out. A gorgeous little emerald green bean will come out easily. But be warned – you’ll end up with more greyish pods to dispose of than beans to cook! And you’ll realise you don’t have nearly as many as you thought. However, it really is worthwhile.
I see so many recipes that say if the broad beans are very young and fresh you don’t need to do this. But I’ve never bought any like that. In my view it’s always worth podding the beans. You only need to taste a pod to know what I mean! I guess if you grow your own and really can pick the early ones when still very small, then it would work OK, but otherwise you miss out on the wonderful delicacy of the bean if you don’t pod them and also the pods are a bit bitter.
Meanwhile, have the pasta cooking according to the packet’s instructions. Trofie take quite a long time – 15 minutes – but you can use other pastas, which may take less time. Now take a couple of slices of prosciutto and slice them (about 1.5 cm). Chop a few leaves of fresh mint.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pan. When it’s hot throw in the ham and give it a quick stir; follow almost immediately with the broad beans and mint.
Stir round – just for 30 seconds or so – this is to heat it up rather than cook it. Add a good glug of cream and stir to mix well. Then tip in the drained pasta and mix everything together. Transfer immediately to a plate or bowl. Grate over a little Parmesan and some black pepper then drizzle over a little olive oil. One fairly instant (total cooking time is only about 15-20 minutes) and very very delicious supper.
It was so gorgeous. Broad beans are sweet – a bit like peas – with a slightly buttery-nutty flavour; this is perfectly matched by the sweet-salty ham and the fresh mint. The cream offers a decadent bit of luxury – though the dish would still be nice without it. One of the great things about broad beans for me is their seasonality. They’re only available for a fairly short time in the year – so make the most of them. You can buy them frozen but it’s not quite the same. There’s something really special about those foods that are still governed by the seasons. We get increasingly used to buying what we want when we want. But a few things remain better at just the ‘right’ time of year.