Gastro pods: The broad bean brings a fresh touch to classic dishes

Mark Hix gets creative with one of summer's most versatile vegetables
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Indy Lifestyle Online

I find podding broad beans quite therapeutic – although it's always a bit disappointing when you discover that the yield amounts to less than a third of what you bought; a carrier bag full of broad beans will barely feed six people, and if you also have to shell them, then you can halve that amount again.

But you don't have to remove every shell from every last broad bean (unless they are enormous). Obsessively shelling broad beans for the sake of it is a cheffy kind of thing, and guess what – I've even seen chefs removing the outer skin from peas, which is crazy, in my view. But I like a combination of tiny beans with the skin left on and larger ones with the skin removed; you get two contrasting textures.

Broad beans are endlessly versatile. I have to make a confession here: I know that I'm always preaching about using seasonal fruit and vegetables – but I do like to keep a bag of broad beans in the freezer all year round; they are very handy for dips, stews, pasta and soups.

Broad bean, Turkish sheep's cheese and herb salad

Serves 4

I'm lucky to have a selection of great Turkish food stores on my doorstep that are open for most of the day and night. You can buy virtually anything at any time of the day, from goat's tripe to giant African snails. One of my favourite Turkish shop ingredients, however, is fresh sheep's cheese, which I have used in this recipe. You help yourself from in the fridge; it's somewhere between feta and a fresh ewe's milk cheese.

300g podded weight of young broad beans
A handful of small rocket leaves, washed and dried
The leaves from a few sprigs of mint, washed and dried
A few sprigs of coriander, washed and dried
1 fresh sheep's cheese weighing about 200g

For the dressing

The juice of half a lemon
1tbs white wine vinegar
80ml extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the broad beans in boiling salted water, drain and leave to cool. Whisk all of the ingredients together for the dressing. Toss the broad beans, rocket and herbs in the dressing and season. Arrange on plates and break the cheese into nuggets on top.

Byessar with crispy lamb

Serves 4

This is the North African broad bean version of houmous. It's a dip-cum-starter, and in my opinion, you really don't need to shell the beans. Frozen ones would also be fine here. You can make this with or without the lamb for a vegetarian starter or dip.

I've added a broad bean relish made with a simple mixture of chopped tomato flesh, cooked broad beans, shallots, olive oil and coriander, which suits the dish if you are serving it as a starter.

A piece of boneless breast of lamb (or you could use another lean cut) weighing about 400g
Vegetable or corn oil to serve
120-150ml olive oil
1tsp ground cumin
1 small green chilli
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
350g podded weight of broad beans (fresh or frozen)
Flat breads to serve
Paprika or chilli powder to serve

Put the breast of lamb into a pan, cover with lightly salted water, bring to the boil and simmer for 1–2 hours until the meat is tender; remove from the water and leave to cool.

Gently cook the cumin, chilli and garlic in a couple of tablespoons of the olive oil for a minute then add the broad beans. Cover with water, add a couple of teaspoons of salt, bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes or until tender. Spoon the beans out into a blender with enough of the liquid to help the blending process. Liquidise until smooth, trickling in the remainder of the oil, then season to taste. It's best to serve at room temperature, so avoid refrigerating it if possible.

Heat about 2cm of the corn oil in a deep frying pan, shred the lamb into small pieces then fry until crisp, turning with a slotted spoon every so often. Transfer on to some kitchen paper.

To serve, spoon the broad bean purée on to serving plates, scatter the lamb on top and dust with paprika and spoon over the broad bean relish if using. Serve with warm flatbread.

British rose veal chop with crushed broad beans and girolles

Serves 4

I think it's about time we encouraged our farmers to produce more British veal, known as rose veal – the good thing is that all English veal is totally natural: the veal calves don't spend time in crates and after all, if it's correctly reared, it's no different from eating a baby lamb or chicken. The Scottish girolles season is with us, but if you can't find the Scottish ones, then any type of girolles will do. I recommend buying your veal from www.blackface.co.uk or Andrew Sharpe's stall at Borough Market in London.

4 veal chops weighing about 300-350g each
Vegetable oil for brushing
300-350g podded weight of broad beans
200-250g girolle mushrooms, cleaned and halved if large
120g butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the broad beans in boiling salted water for 7-8 minutes until soft and tender. Drain, then coarsely chop in a food processor or by hand and then return to a pan with about 50g of the butter and season to taste.

Season the veal chops according to your taste, and then brush with a little oil and cook on a ribbed griddle, barbecue or in a heavy frying pan, for 5-6 minutes on each side, until just pink. Meanwhile melt the rest of the butter in a frying pan and cook the girolles on a medium heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring every so often, season to taste.

Serve the chops on the warmed crushed broad beans with the girolles spooned over.

Pappardelle with broad beans and rabbit

Serves 4

Rabbit is a much under-valued meat that offers many possibilities in the kitchen. It makes a delicious pasta sauce all year round and the addition of broad beans give it a particulary summery, seasonal feel.

If you can get hold of it, wild rabbit is by far the best option and it has that lovely, light gaminess about it. Most good butchers should stock wild rabbits, or you could try visiting the stalls of Shell Seekers or Furness Fish in Borough Market which also specialise in game.

1 wild rabbit
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1tsp fresh oregano leaves, chopped
60g butter
1tbsp flour
150ml white wine
1ltr chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g shelled weight of broad beans
1tbsp chopped parsley
250g pappardelle

Remove all the meat from the rabbit and cut it into rough 1cm pieces, reserving the liver and kidneys. Chop the rabbit bones into small pieces and simmer them in the chicken stock for 1 hour.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan and fry the rabbit pieces (not including the livers and kidney) with the onion and garlic on a high heat, stirring every so often, until lightly coloured, then add the oregano, butter and flour and stir well.

Gradually stir in the wine and then the stock and add the rabbit meat. Bring to the boil and season and simmer gently for an hour or until the meat is tender, skimming every so often. The sauce should have thickened by now, but if not then continue to simmer for a little longer. Chop the kidneys and liver finely and stir into the sauce.

Cook the broad beans in boiling salted water for 4-5 minutes until tender, then drain. You can remove the shells from any large beans.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to the manufacturer's cooking instructions, drain then toss in a pan on a low heat with the sauce and broad beans with a little olive oil. Season and serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

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