I really do try to make an effort to eat produce that is ripe and in season; its bursting with flavour, good for you and doesn’t need too much fussing about in its preparation. Spring has well and truly arrived here in Sydney, and after a long and cold(ish) winter it is wonderful to visit the farmers market and see a whole new crop of fruit and vegetables, ready for the eating.
For a long time now I have been anticipating the return of spring, and fresh broad beans in particular, for no better reason than my craving for Broad Bean, Pea and Mint Bruschetta with Pecorino. I was first introduced to this bruschetta many years ago at Cafe Sopra at Fratelli Fresh, and courtesy of a quick conversation with the chef, I have recreated it at home countless times.
Today was my lucky day, sitting side by side on a trestle table were firm, crisp broad beans and baby garden peas in their pods. It was a no brainer really, lunch was beckoning and broad bean and pea bruschetta was firmly on the menu.
A girlfriend once told me that those gnarly broad bean pods were intimidating and whilst she adored eating them, as far as she was concerned, podding broad beans was definitely a no go zone. There really isn’t any reason to be intimidated – I have even managed to train my daughters from a very young age in the art of peeling and shelling broad beans. Partly because it speeds up the process of getting the bruschetta to the table, and partly because I have vivid memories of sitting at the kitchen table aged 4 or 5 shelling garden peas for my mother. If you can shell a pea you can definitely shell and peel a broad bean. The reward is a glistening, emerald nugget of sweetness.
There is no way around it, unless they are very young and tender, broad beans need to be shelled and peeled. Here is how its done:
- Shell the broad bean pod, as you would a pea – slit each pod along its seam and run your thumb along the furry inside to push out the beans.
- Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and then add the beans
- Blanch for about 2 minutes. Drain
- Refresh the beans in a bowl of cold water
- Peel the greeny-grey thick skin off the bean by slicing it open with your nail and then simply pop out the bright green bean.
And there you have it broad beans ready to add to your recipe. Child’s play. Look how much prettier and more vibrant peeled broadbeans look compared to shelled. It really does make a huge difference to the taste and texture of the finished dish.
Usually when I make Broad Bean Bruschetta I buy a french bread stick and make dainty little bite sized appetisers. Not today though. Four greedy little piggies went to market and came back with chunky ciabatta rolls. I simply split the rolls in half and toasted them, piling on the broad bean topping. A very satisfying lunch.
Broad Bean, Pea and Mint Bruschetta with Pecorino
This is a very classic Italian topping to bruschetta. Here is the recipe as it was originally provided to me:
Using a mortar and pestle mash 1 handful of double peeled broad beans, a smaller handful of fresh peas, salt, pepper, a good amount of fresh mint, a good splash of extra virgin olive oil, a bit of lemon juice and some pecorino. Pile onto some toasted croutons rubbed with garlic, drizzle with more olive oil and shaved pecorino.
I love this rustic version of the recipe, but having walked a number of friends through this recipe over the years here is my very modern interpretation complete with measurements and more detailed instructions.
2 french bread sticks (or ciabatta if you prefer)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Broad Bean Topping
2 cups broad beans, shelled, blanched and peeled (about 1kg broad beans in their pod)
1/2 cup shelled garden peas (about 250gm peas in their pod)
1/3 bunch mint
2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon
100gm pecorino; grated (Use 80gm to make topping, reseve 20gm to garnish)
4 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to season
To prepare the base:
- Preheat oven to 160C
- Slice bread into 1cm thick rounds, and brush each slice lightly with olive oil
- Toast in oven until golden
To prepare the broad bean topping:
Pulse prepared broad beans, freshly shelled peas, mint, 80gm of the pecorino, olive oil and lemon juice in a food processor for a few seconds to achieve a slightly chunky consistency. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
To assemble the bruschetta:
Rub toasted bread with garlic, pile on broad bean topping, a little of the reserved pecorino and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.