gardening · recipes


broad beans

Every year I raise a patch of broad beans – and not because I am a broad who loves beans – but rather because I enjoy presiding over a vigorous leafy crop laden with produce. A thick forest of tall growth bursting with fat pods does wonders for the soul.

Invest in a packet of seed and plant yourself some rows when next you are given some sunny moments of alone time on a future weekend. If the soil is moist, there is not much else to do but wait for a few weeks to see your bean shoots appear. Once established, rather than deep watering, broad beans love a good spray. Soon white flowers with black spots will appear – the forerunner to your pods. During this period, as your crop develops, make regular visits and marvel at the dense growth.

Other than a gentle watering, these beans will ask nothing of you, will not notice if you’re sporting gumboots with pencil skirt and will stand silently by you as your strategy for dealing with an aberrant child is formulated.

Here is a soup derived from a recipe in my new soup bible, a tome that will be seeing me well through Winter 2013 and beyond. (Many of my favourite food people have had a hand in this book: Sophie Grigson, Monty Don and Sarah Raven, so it was impossible not to own a copy.)

1 tbsp olive oil
3 onions sliced
1 leek sliced
1.5 kg shelled broad beans
4 garlic cloves crushed
4 new potatoes, peeled and chopped
salt and pepper
flat leaf parsley
parmesan cheese

  1. Heat oil in a large pan over a medium heat.
  2. Add onions and leek. Soften for 10 minutes stirring often.
  3. Add the beans, garlic, and potatoes. Stir then pour in 3 litres of water. Season well with salt and pepper.
  4. Increase heat and bring to the boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes. Cool and then process with stick blender.
  5. Serve with parsley scattered over and some parmesan cheese on top.

broad beans growingPostscript: People originating from distant parts prefer to eat the beans freshly from the pod, with a glass of arak to see them down. Therefore, my beans rarely make it to the cooking pot, with often only a pile of vacated skins left abandoned on the counter top as evidence that they ever were.



slow roasted beans

By this stage of the season, simple is the adjective we reach for when thoughts turn to the day’s upcoming menu.

On recent supermarket visits, I notice basic items – the likes of yoghurt, eggs and honest loaves returning to people’s trolleys in an attempt to restore equilibrium after lavish seasonal feasting. Lovely as it is to enjoy the spoils of Christmas, we eventually seek out the familiar constituents our system and soul relies upon throughout the mainstay of the year.

Delectable leftovers must not be ignored either – so constructing a meal that incorporates feast remnants in a toned-down fashion, is the aim. Our succulent ham, after featuring as the celebration table hero, took a backseat to some lovely baby tomatoes and the pantry staple – beans. Here’s how it went:

750g small tomatoes
bulb of garlic separated into individually peeled cloves
200g chopped ham of the bone (small chunks, not thin slices)
salt and pepper
2 cans of beans (butter, cannellini or whatever you prefer) drained and rinsed
1/2cup chicken or vege stock
small bunch of oregano sprigs
feta cheese to serve

Place tomatoes, garlic and ham in a roasting pan, and cook for 30 minutes in a 180 degree celsius oven for 30 minutes. Season with pepper and a little salt. Once the tomatoes are shrivelling and the ham has crisped a little, add the beans, stock and oregano and cook for a further 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and crumble feta over the top. Serve with warmed pita bread.

pita beans hamPostscript:Ham still in plentiful supply, any further suggestions welcome…