Find your groove with broad beans, and why you should love them

December 15, 2013 — Leave a comment
Broad beans with garlic and jamon

Broad beans with garlic and jamon

It’s not often we see these little nuggets pop up in healthy recipes. And when they do, well most of the time it’s pretty un-inspiring if you ask me, possibly a lay-over from sour-cream doused 80s style recipes which is my recollection, along with leathery, tough, tasteless. It was the one thing my mum probably didn’t nail (she is a pretty darn good cook otherwise). Then, I was introduced to double peeled broadies. See, mum missed this vital step in making broad beans go from “ugh” to “freakin’ amazing!”.

Why do we want to eat broad beans (aka fava beans)?
We commonly associate beans with protein – they are an excellent alternative to animal-based protein which is necessary for cellular functioning and enzyme production. Having a variety of nutrient sources is super important to human biology, and imperative for optimal health in our crazy busy lives.

We also associate beans with gas and bloating…not so great. Just like working out in the gym, our intestines need a little work-out and that’s exactly what beans do. They’re like our intestinal resistance training. Eaten regularly and prepared properly, beans no longer give you gas. I’ve written lots on beans here and here, and they pop up here too.

Like animal-based proteins, broad beans contain the all important B-vitamins that help support the nervous system. Essentially, Vitamin Bs improve our coping mechanism and ability to handle stress. One source, The Natural Health Cookbook explains Vitamin Bs as the ‘quality of life’ vitamins – the ones that provide that ‘on top of the world’ feeling. The benefits of Vitamin B will extend to promoting sleep because they calm the nervous system and assist the adrenals.

In Chinese Medicine, we view broad beans as having a neutral temperature (neither heating, nor cooling). Neutral foods are great for achieving balance in the body. If diets are weighted too heating or cooling, then that’s exactly what will be promoted within the internal environment. So we use these foods in smaller quantities, or larger doses to achieve a medicinal effect. Broad beans are sweet in flavour which supports the digestion. The act on the body by promoting urination helping reduce fluid retention, which often accompanies poor digestive function.

While they are a pretty awesome little bean, you should know that a small percentage of the Mediterranean and American-black population have a genetic condition and can’t tolerate broad beans – a condition called Favism – which can have some pretty serious side effects.

They really are pretty awesome and worth the little bit of extra work to prepare. The creamy texture gets me every time, and they pair well with lots of olive oil and garlic. The trick is, as mentioned, you have to double peel. Here’s how…

Broad beans with garlic and jamon (or pancetta)

First, peel broad beans from the pod:

Step 1: remove beans from the pod

Step 1: remove beans from the pod

Then blanch the beans in lightly salted water for no more than 2 minutes. Drain, then rinse in cold water to stop them from over cooking, and cool so you can handle the beans.

Next, pinch the leathery outer skin creating a small hole and squeeze the bean through the hole. It should just slip right out. And there you have it, double peeled broad beans (no leathery shell).

Step 2: peel beans from outter leathery shell

Step 2: peel beans from outter leathery shell

Now in a pan, sauté sliced garlic pieces and roughly chopped jamon or pancetta in olive oil, until garlic is fragrant and soft and the fat rendered from the meat. If you want to keep it vegetarian/vegan omit the meat. Keep the temperature low so the oil doesn’t smoke and go rancid, and the garlic doesn’t burn or go crispy. This will spoil the end-result texture.

Throw in the broad beans and stir through. Add a small squeeze of lemon juice (not too much to over power the flavours), and season with fresh ground black pepper and salt.

Serve on crostini, as a side dish, roughly mash and serve with poached eggs for breakfast, top soups with them. Go crazy!

Broad bean crostini with fiery peach salsa (from Somersault dips)

Broad bean crostini with fiery peach salsa (from Somersault dips)

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