Pods of the gods

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Broad beans were always regarded as a special bean in our family. My mother, who is Maltese, would always be very excited when they became in season here in England. That’s because in Malta they use this bean in many of their national dishes including couscous based soups, lamb and garlic casseroles and possibly the most popular is in Bigilla, a broad bean dip made in a similar way to hummus: blended broad beans, stock, garlic, lemon juice, chilli and olive oil. (I’m not going to make this today, but I will soon.)

When I was young we would champion these pods of the gods, by simply eating them straight from their bright green shells, with slices of hand-carved ham, some spring onions and Mum’s homemade sesame seed-topped bread rolls.

Today I went to my local farm shop, White House Farm, and bought 2kg – half for me, half for my mum. I bought the paper and as usual plucked out the travel section before deciding to cook myself some brunch using these little gems. The dish I prepared is effectively ‘beans on toast’. But with a garlicky, lemony twist. And no tomato sauce.

It also works well as a starter to a Mediterranean dinner or as a bruschetta topping. I think the original recipe was inspired from a food magazine long ago and has since evolved. Broad beans marry well with bacon and ham and I used to finish this dish with slices of crispy pancetta on top. It was divine. Here’s the recipe for the vegetarian option:

Pods of the gods on sourdough

Serves 1 for bunch or serves 2 for a starter

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Two generous handfuls of beans (around 20 pods)

Two slices of sourdough bread

Zest and juice of half a lemon

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon of chopped mint

Half a clove of garlic (or if you’re a big fan like me, a whole clove)

Sea salt and pepper

1) Pop the beans from their pods and place them in some boiling water and cook for 3 – 4 minutes until the green-grey fleshy skin starts to soften. (Test one and when the skin comes away, remove from heat.)

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2) Drain and rinse in some cold water so you can easily peel the broad beans, disposing of the thick skins and placing the bright green middle in a separate bowl.

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3) Once you’ve peeled them all, in the same bowl add crushed garlic, chopped mint, Zest and juice of half a lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper. Allow the beans to marinate in this dressing while you toast your sourdough bread. Pour the bean mixture on the toasted bread and drizzle with a little extra olive oil if desired.

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Serve with a glass of medium-sweet Bramley & Cox apple juice, like this one I bought from White House Farm today.

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