Allotment staples

Potatoes, runner beans and broad beans (fava) – they are all quintessential British allotment staples. And here we are in July and I haven’t even mentioned Broad Beans. Remiss of me I know.

Usually by this time of year a mild desperation sets in. The word glut is bandied about. You swap recipes. You go home and flick through ALL your recipe books and the scraps of cuttings you retrieved from the weekend papers. The hunt is on for new and interesting recipes to deal with the glut of broad beans. There are usually piles left on the bench by the gate to the allotment – free to fellow allotmenteers to take.

And this year?

Think along the lines of renaming my allotment as ‘No glut ville’

My broad beans aren’t great. I need to work out what I’m doing wrong. I get broad beans but the plants aren’t big and fat and healthy like they should be. Alongside that they sometimes get rust type diseases. I think the answer is in direct sowing in autumn and then again early spring. But I need to look at what I dig into the soil, or maybe even what not to dig into the soil. Work out their companion plants – summer savoury is said to help ward off black fly. Time and trying different methods will eventually solve my broad bean puzzle.

Broad Beans have such a distinctive flavour – you are either in the broad bean camp or outside it. Get them young and small they don’t need the skins peeling off, cook and eat them simply – boiled or steamed for a few minutes in unsalted water, drained and then maybe a dash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, or maybe some chopped garlic or dill. I always think of broad beans and dill being perfect partners – they offset and compliment at the same time.

So the scant meals we are getting from them mean they are that bit more precious, to be savoured and thought through. And while I ponder my poor crop I’ll give you a lovely way to cook them – with cous cous. The recipe is from Stevie Parle of the River Cafe (and picked up by me from the Guardian) and he describes them as “Delicious as part of a larger mezze style lunch for a picnic, or as a starter, snack or eccentric breakfast (with less garlic and cumin perhaps) on its own.” Tempted? I hope so!

Cous cous with broad beans
Serves four

1 cup of fine cous cous
1 cup of small podded broad beans
1 clove of garlic – finely chopped and/or crushed
1 tsp cumin
4 tablespoons of yoghurt – I use a greek style yoghurt
2 tablespoons of chopped coriander leaves ~ or if you prefer flat leaf parsley
Olive oil

  • Briefly boil the broad beans in unsalted water then place in a bowl with the couscous. Sprinkle with salt and a tablespoon of olive oil. Mix the couscous and beans to make sure everything is well coated in olive oil. Pour hot water over the mixture, just enough to cover and leave until the water is absorbed.
  • Dry roast the cumin in a heavy based pan until it turns a deeper shade of brown and the scent of cumin is tickling your nose.
  • Grind the cumin (in a pestle and mortar or coffee grinder), put them in a separate bowl and add the garlic and mix well. stir in the yoghurt and black pepper.
  • Mix the cous cous mixture with the seasoned yoghurt, check the seasoning and serve with a little olive oil.
About these ads