Pod cast: Mark Hix adds colour and flavour to his dishes with the new crop of beans and peas

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Some of our summer beans are starting to appear now in the shops and at farmers' markets, and they are always a welcome addition to my shopping basket as they can really add colour and flavour to spring and summer menus. Even serving raw peas in their pods makes a great healthy start to a meal and is no effort whatsoever to prepare.

There are so many different varieties of peas and beans at the moment, as keen gardeners and vegetable growers are experimenting more and more with different varieties of fruits and vegetables. Hot or cold beans can make a dead simple accompaniment to a spring lunch or picnic feast.

Ham hock and borlotti bean broth

Serves 4-6

Fresh borlotti beans are becoming more and more popular in farmers' markets and specialist Italian delis. You can use good-quality canned or dried for this recipe, but they are not nearly as good in terms of texture. You can make the stock from a ham hock (or if you're in a hurry, just use some ready-diced pancetta and fry it with the onion).

To cook your ham hock, simply place it in a pan of cold water, bring it to the boil and simmer gently for a couple of hours until tender.

150-180g shelled weight of fresh borlotti beans, or the equivalent amount of dried and soaked, or canned
30g butter
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
A few sprigs of thyme
1.5ltrs ham hock cooking liquid
1 medium leek, halved, cut into rough 1cm squares and washed
150-200g or more of ham hock cut into rough 1cm chunks
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the borlotti beans in a pan of cold salted water, bring to the boil and then simmer for 4-5 minutes, then drain and wash under the cold tap (for dried or canned, follow the package instructions).

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and gently cook the onion for a few minutes until soft but without letting it colour. Add the thyme, leek, cooked borlotti beans and ham cooking liquid, bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the beans are tender.

Then add the parsley, simmer for a couple more minutes, re-season if necessary and serve.

Broad bean and pecorino salad

Serves 4

This is a lovely salad to serve as a starter. If you grow your own broad beans then snip off a few of the shoots or pea shoots and throw them into the salad. You can use any hard cheese; even mature cheddar.

200-250g podded weight of young broad beans
A handful of broad beans or pea shoots
The juice of -1 lemon
3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
100-150g aged pecorino cheese

Cook the broad beans in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes, depending on the size, until tender; then drain and leave to cool a little. Remove the outer shell from any large ones. Mix the lemon juice with the olive oil; season. Toss the broad bean shoots and beans in a bowl and season. Then shave the cheese into shards and arrange on top and serve.

Red mullet with spring vegetables

Serves 4 as a starter or main

The vibrant combination of the red mullet and green vegetables makes this a lovely light spring starter or main course. You can use whatever vegetables you can get hold of and you could even add a few spears of thin sprue asparagus or samphire.

4 or 8 fillets of red mullet, scaled and boned
1tbsp olive oil
50g podded weight of peas, cooked
50-60g podded weight of young broad beans
8 baby leeks or spring onions, cooked
2tbsp white wine
120g butter, cubed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 175C/gas mark 4. Place the red mullet fillets on a baking tray, skin-side up, season and then brush with olive oil.

Bake in the oven for 4-5 minutes until just cooked. Meanwhile, place the wine in a saucepan and simmer until it has almost evaporated, then remove it from the heat and whisk in the butter until it has emulsified.

Reheat the vegetables in a little water, drain and mix with the sauce.

Season to taste, spoon on to serving plates and then place the red mullet on top. Serve immediately.

Yellow beans with red onions

Serves 4

These yellow runner beans are often seen in Italian markets. When beans look like this there is very little you need to do to them. If you can't find them, then use runners or normal green beans.

200-250g yellow, flat, or runner beans

For the dressing

2 medium red onions, finely chopped
100ml good-quality red wine vinegar
4-5tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the red onions in a saucepan with the vinegar and 2tbsp water. Bring to the boil; simmer for 3-4 minutes until the liquid has almost evaporated. Transfer to a bowl, whisk in the oil; season. Cook the beans in boiling, salted water for 2-3 minutes until tender then drain; arrange on serving plates and spoon the dressing over.

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