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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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This was an accidental discovery. I had some friends coming for lunch and I had baked ricotta with salad in my mind.  But I’d forgotten that I’d used the ricotta.  Oops.

Lots of other lunch options of course, but you know when you have your mind set on something? I had some home-made Greek yoghurt in the fridge, and I thought perhaps I could make ricotta by lunch time?

Nope. I put 2 cups of the yoghurt in a strainer lined with cheesecloth over a bowl.  Two hours later I had something like labneh and it just seemed like that might work instead.

It was a lucky discovery – very easy and very delicious.

The Recipe:

Serves four for lunch.

This is quick and easy, but you need to start several hours ahead of time.

Mix

  • three cups of Greek yoghurt
  • a good pinch of salt
  • 3 teaspoons of grated lemon rind
  • juice of a large-ish lemon (150 ml)

Pour into a colander lined with cheesecloth over a bowl.  In this cool weather you can just cover with a cloth and leave it on the bench to drain – the yoghurt culture will protect it from any bad bugs. If it is hot find room for it in the fridge.

After a couple of hours, the bowl should have about a cup and a half of clear liquid and the cheesecloth about a cup and a half of thick, creamy spreadable curds.

Tip it into a bowl and mix in:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1½ cups of finely chopped fresh herbs.  I used spring onion greens, lemon thyme, basil, parsley, mint and nasturtium leaves.

Oil a tray of small muffin tins and spoon the mixure into the cups.  You should have enough for 8 small cups.

Bake in a medium oven for around 30 minutes until set and the top is golden.

Serve with a good sourdough bread toasted to spread it on and a green salad on the side.

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