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The broad beans are bearing.  Not so many of them this year and they will run out a lot earlier than last year.  I’ve made Ful Medames a few times now, and Broad bean felafels, and we’ve had them for breakfast and as side dishes.  But this  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge features broad beans as the main attraction.

Beans in general are super healthy and have a number of characteristics that are likely to make you feel good.  They’re full of low GI carbohydates, good quality protein, soluble and non-soluble fibre, and a good range of vitamins and minerals especially B vitamins, folate and iron – which all play a role in keeping your energy levels high.  They also have a range of phytonutrients like lignans and flavonoids and sterols that play a role in warding off osteoporosis,  heart disease and the kind of cell damage that leads to cancer.  But the specialty of broad beans is that they’re a good source of  l- dopa, a precursor to dopamine. Too little dopamine  is a characteristic of  Parkinsons, and of depression and anxiety, and there’s lots of research around about broad beans for Parkinson’s and some about broad beans for depression and anxiety.

But good for you and virtuously good are only two of the three Witches Kitchen goods, and I used to think broad beans failed on number three until I discovered the north African and Middle Eastern way of cooking them with lemon, olive oil and garlic. The lemon in particular just lifts them to another dimension.  This recipe uses preserved lemon and its sweet sour salty mix is a perfect match.

The Recipe:

Makes dinner for two.

  • Saute an onion with half a teaspoon of cumin seeds and a clove of chopped garlic (or more if you are not being frugal waiting for the garlic to be ready to harvest), till the onion is translucent and the cumin seeds start to pop.
  •  Add half a cup of water and a cup of shelled broad beans and pressure cook 5 minutes, or simmer for 15.  (You might need to add a bit more water if you are simmering.)
  • Add
    • 2 dessertspoons of preserved lemon finely chopped,
    • half a cup (packed) of finely chopped flat leaf parsley, mint and coriander,
    •  juice of quarter of a lemon.
  • Cook for another 2 minutes till the liquid is pretty well all gone.
  • Turn off and add a stalk of celery, chopped, a handful of chopped rocket, and 75 grams of feta in small dice.
  • It’s best served with warm pita bread, but also good rolled up in a lettuce leaf like San Choi Bau or with couscous.

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This is a bit of a  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge rules cheat.  Now the days have started really lengthening, even the geriatric chooks are laying so handmade pasta with real eggs was in my mind. And then I was looking for a cake tin deep in the back of the shelf and came across a fluted flan tin that I forgot I had.  And in a moment of inspiration realised it would work to cut pasta.  So I decided to try hand making farfalle.

The next decision was primavera with the lovely sweet baby spring vegetables, or carbonara which would use up another egg, so I compromised by combining both. The whole meal didn’t take much over the half hour of the rules, and it was quite simple and easy, but if I were making it for more than two and trying to get it done in the half hour, I think I’d go for a simpler pasta shape.

The Recipe:

Makes two adult sized serves.

The Pasta

In a food processor, blend for just a minute till it comes together into a dough:

  • ½ cup baker’s flour  (I use the same Laucke Wallaby Unbleached Bakers Flour that I use for my sourdough, but any high gluten flour will work)
  • a large egg,
  • a spoonful of olive oil,
  • a good pinch of salt.

Flour the workbench and knead very briefly, kneading in enough more flour to make a smooth, non-sticky dough. It will look like quite a small dough ball, but a little bit goes a long way.

With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out very thin.  (If you flip it several times while rolling, you’ll find you can easily get it very thin without sticking. The thinner the better.)

I put it onto a chopping board to cut, but that will depend on your bench hardiness. You can then cut it into any shape you like. To make farfalle, I used the fluted edge of the flan tin to cut the pasta into strips about 2.5 cm thick, then into 5 cm lengths.  You can fold and stack the pasta and cut 5 or 6 layers at once to make it a bit faster.  I then just squeezed the centre of each little piece of pasta to make the bow shape.  This is the bit that takes time. Kids may enjoy helping.

Put a pot of water on to boil and leave the pasta spread out to dry a little while you make the sauces.

The Carbonara:

You don’t need to wash the food processor.

Blend together:

  • egg
  • 80 grams of low fat feta
  • 2 big dessertspoons of low fat cottage cheese

The Primavera:

They are all fresh vegetables that take no time to cook, so this will come together in 5 minutes;

In a heavy frypan, with a little olive oil, add (in more or less this order, giving it a stir with each addition)

  • a small leek, finely chopped
  • a handful of  single shelled broad beans
  • 4 or 5 leaves of kale or silver beet, or a couple of each (just the greens, not the stems)
  • a big handful of shelled fresh peas
  • a big handful of snow peas, chopped into bites
  • a dozen or so olives, roughly chopped
  • half a dozen spears of fresh asparagus, any woody bits removed and roughly chopped
  • juice of half a lemon
  • a heaped dessertspoon of chopped fresh mint. (The fresh mint really changes it – it’s not essential  but really worth adding)
Take the pan off the heat and put a lid on it to conserve the heat.

Assembling:

  • Cook the pasta in the pot of boiling water until it rises to the surface, which will be in about 2 minutes.
  • Reserve a little of the cooking water and drain the pasta, then return it to the hot pot.
  • Blend a little of the cooking water in with the carbonara sauce to make a cream consistency, then gently toss it through the pasta in the hot pot. Put the lid on and leave for a minute for the egg to just coddle a little and thicken the sauce.
  • Add the vegetables, toss through and serve, with a grating of parmesan and black pepper on top.

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Last broad bean recipe for the season I think.  They are all just about finished – this weekend I should get around to harvesting the last of them and cutting off the plants.  Broad beans are legumes and like all legumes, they are symbiotic with a  rhizobia that can grab nitrogen out of the air and “fix” it in a nitrogen compound that the legume can then use to make protein.  Which broad beans do really well – they’re one of the highest protein sources in plants (along with complex low GI carbs,  fibre,  vitamins, potassium, iron and  l- dopa ).

I’ll cut them off rather than pull them and follow with a nitrogen lover like zucchini.  The plants have a huge root system covered in nitrogen fixing nodules.  Although most of the nitrogen will have gone to the beans (and thus to us!) there’s still enough in the residual to be a good fertilizer hit.  And quite apart from the nitrogen, it’s good organic matter already dug in.

The Recipe

We ate this batch just as is, just the two of us, arguing about whether the chili dipping sauce or the yoghurt, mint and garlic dipping sauce was better.  But really the perfect way to serve is with pita bread, tabouli, and both sauces, in which case this would be plenty for four for dinner. (Although, having said that, there is a lot to be said for simple, one dish dinners where you just get to really appreciate one thing).

It’s fastest in a pressure cooker, but a pot with a tight lid is fine.

Saute an onion, diced, in a good swig of olive oil.  When the onion is starting to brown, add

  • four (or more) cloves of garlic, crushed,
  • 1½ cups of shelled  (not double-peeled) broad beans
  • a cup of water,
  • juice of half a lemon
  • a grinding of black pepper
  • and a good pinch of salt

Bring to pressure and pressure cook for 5 minutes, or put the lid on and simmer for 10 minutes watching it at the end.  Take the lid off and continue to cook to reduce until there is virtually no liquid in the pot.

Tip the broad bean mix into a food processor and add:

  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • a thick slice of wholemeal or multigrain bread

You can add a bit of chili powder too if you like it spicy, but I think it is better with the chili as a dipping sauce.

Pulse till it is a thick batter.  Add more bread or a little flour if you need to to make it thick enough to hold its shape (like peanut butter thickness). Then add:

  • a cup (packed) of mixed parsley, coriander, mint and spring onion

Pulse again just briefly to chop up the herbs but not blend them into a paste.  You want the herbs to have a bit of texture.

Put a couple of spoonfuls of flour on a plate.  With wet hands shape spoonfuls of the mixture into little footballs and roll them in flour, just enough to stop them sticking together.

Shallow fry in hot olive oil in a heavy pan for a few minutes until golden.

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This one is cheating really.  It’s not a new recipe at all. It’s just Broad Beans on Toast blended. We are still picking lots of broad beans but it is getting towards the end of the season, and there’s been six weeks now when, if I ask  “what would you like for breakfast?” the answer is inevitably, unequivocally, eagerly “broad beans”.

They are my partner’s very favourite breakfast, which creates a problem.  I can’t get past the flavour combination of fresh broad beans (fava beans) with lemon, garlic, onion and olive oil.  And he can’t get past broad beans.  How many ways can you do broad beans with lemon, garlic, onion and olive oil? This way makes an appearance a couple of times a week.

Broad beans are a good source of low GI complex carbs, protein, and fibre, which means that they keep your blood sugar stable for a long time, so quite apart from the  l-dopa, a broad bean breakfast makes you feel good all day.

The Recipe:

Makes enough for two breakfast bowls.

It’s fastest in a pressure cooker, but a pot with a tight lid is fine.

Saute an onion, diced, in a good swig of olive oil.  When the onion is starting to brown, add

  • two (or more) cloves of garlic, crushed,
  • a cup of shelled broad beans, (I don’t double-peel – too finicky for me, and the fibre in the outer bean is the bit that’s really good for you).
  • a cup of water,
  • juice of half a lemon
  • a grinding of black pepper
  • and a good pinch of salt

Bring to pressure and pressure cook for 5 minutes, or put the lid on and simmer for 10 minutes watching it at the end.  You want the beans to be very soft in just a little liquid.

While it is cooking, make some toast and cut into dipping fingers.

Tip the broad beans into a blender, or use a stick blender to blend to a thick dip consistency. Taste and adjust the salt and lemon juice.

Serve with soldiers for dipping for breakfast or for supper, or, they also work well like this as a side dish with meat (reminiscent of mushy peas), or cold as a dip or spread.

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(The Breakfast Cereal Challenge is my 2011 challenge – a year’s worth of breakfast recipes based on in-season ingredients, that are quick and easy enough to be a real option for weekdays, and that are preferable, in nutrition, ethics, and taste,  to the overpackaged, overpriced, mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “cereal” .The Muesli Bar Challenge was my 2010 Challenge.)

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I picked the first broad beans of the season this morning, and I cannot remember why I ever thought broad beans boring.  There was a time though, when I grew them just because they were so healthy and treated them as a filler.   Maybe I’ve just become a better cook? But we fought over the last piece of this sourdough toast with broad beans and herby labne this morning.

Broad beans are a super food.  They share all the good stuff in legumes in general –  low GI and good source of protein, fibre, several vitamins, potassium and iron. Their special claim to fame though is that they contain lots of l- dopa, a precursor to dopamine. There’s lots of research around about broad beans for Parkinson’s and some about broad beans for depression and anxiety, but at the least, they make you feel good.

(The Breakfast Cereal Challenge is my 2011 challenge – a year’s worth of breakfast recipes based on in-season ingredients, that are quick and easy enough to be a real option for weekdays, and that are preferable, in nutrition, ethics, and taste,  to the overpackaged, overpriced, mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “cereal” .The Muesli Bar Challenge was my 2010 Challenge.)

The Recipe:

Makes enough for three slices of toast (which is why we fought over the third!)

It’s fastest in a pressure cooker, but a pot with a tight lid is fine.

Saute a small onion, diced, in a good swig of olive oil (don’t be stingy with the oil – there’s no fat anywhere else in the recipe.)

When the onion is starting to brown, add

  • two cloves of garlic, crushed,
  • half a cup of shelled broad beans,
  • half a cup of water,
  • a grinding of black pepper
  • and a good pinch of salt

Bring to pressure and pressure cook for just 4 minutes, or put the lid on and simmer for 10 minutes watching it at the end.

Squeeze in the juice of ¼ lemon and simmer for another couple of minutes to reduce till there is barely any liquid left. Taste and adjust salt and lemon juice to taste.

While the broad beans are cooking, blend together

  • ¼ cup labne, quark or fromage frais (or any kind of low fat yoghurt cheese)
  • a few leaves of chives
  • scant teaspoon fresh thyme
  • scant teaspoon lemon rind
  • pinch of salt

Spread the herby cream cheese spread on toast (I used my homemade megagrain sourdough) and then the broad beans on top.

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We stopped in at a fish shop on the way home from visiting our daughter at the coast yesterday.  I had just bought a half kilo of squid, thinking calamari, when I noticed they had snapper frames at a ridiculously low price.

Snapper are listed as a sustainable catch, and I like the idea that, when you hunt an animal for food you really should eat all of it.  So I bought two head-and-backbone frames for next to nothing, and this is the result.  Of course then we had to invite people for dinner.  The recipe fed four of us, generously, served with crusty bread, and with the spring vegetables from the garden and the rich, smoky paprika flavoured fish stock it was very good.

The Recipe:

I don’t think my fish stock recipe is in the chef’s manual, but it works.  I just put the frames in my large pressure cooker, cover with water, and pressure cook over a very low flame for an hour.  Then I strain the stock, pressing down with a potato masher to get the last of the juice, and leaving the the heads and bones for the compost.

To 1 ½ litres fish stock (from 2 snapper frames), I added:

  • 2 onions, diced
  • 6 cloves of my new season fresh garlic roughly chopped
  • ½ cup shelled young broad beans
  • 5 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 jar of peeled tomatoes
  • 6 stalks of cavallo nero kale diced
  • 4 bay leaves
  • a heaped teaspoon of smoky paprika

I simmered this for 20 minutes or so, then added

  • 3 zucchini, diced
  • 6 small new season potatoes quartered
  • handful of dill, chopped
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and black pepper

I simmered this for another 10 minutes until the potato was tender, then added the half a kilogram of squid, cut into rings, brought it just up to the boil again, then turned it off.  By the time I had bowls organised, the squid was cooked.

Served with warm crusty bread.

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We forgot to take a photo – we’d eaten most of them for breakfast before I thought of it!  Here’s the rest.  Ful medames are a traditional breakfast all through North Africa. They are traditionally made with dried beans, and I make a version of this often in winter when I have the wood stove going, using my dried Purple King beans.  But this time of year, with broad beans in season, it is a recipe that is quick and easy enough to make for weekend breakfast, or lunch or dinner or tv snack or….

The Recipe:

  • Saute a large chopped onion in olive oil over a moderate heat till translucent (don’t let it brown).
  • Add lots of chopped garlic – 7 or 8 big cloves at least – and lots of cracked black pepper (a good teaspoonful) and saute for just a minute or two more.  Then add salt – again more than you would think – half a teaspoon or so – and a cup of water.
  • Bring to the boil and add a cup of shelled broad beans.  Simmer this mix gently for about 10 minutes until most of the water is absorbed.
  • Add the juice of a small lemon – around ¼ cup of lemon juice and simmer a minute or two longer.
  • Taste and add more salt or lemon juice to taste.

At this point you have several choices, depending on how you are going to serve.

Just like this in a bowl with pita bread is breakfast in Egypt, and also good for lunch or dinner!  But it also works well if you puree the mix and spread it on toast or serve as a dip with pita chips.

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I’m right at the edge of the climate range for broad beans.  I have to plant them as soon as it gets cool enough, and hope that they are ready to harvest before spring really takes hold.  They’re not my favourite green vegetable – they take too much peeling to get to the double peeled green beans.  But these very young ones, sauteed with peas and kale, butter and lots of garlic make it them worth the growing.

There’s a knob of butter and just a couple of tablespoons of water in the bottom of the pot.  I shall put the lid on and cook, holding the lid on and shaking the pot frequently, for about 5 minutes until most of the liquid is evaporated and the beans are tender.  And serve with roasted organic free range chicken and winter vegetables.

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