Saturday, October 23, 2010

Broad beans and chicory


Each year I plant broad beans. Each year I realise with dismay that yet again I haven't planted a quarter the plants I need to feed a family, and have to top up our harvest with store bought beans.

Broad beans are ready to pick just when the mint goes ballistic. For all the dire warnings I received about mint – that it would invade our garden and I'd never be able to contain it – I lost a dozen plants before I hit on the outlandish idea of growing it in an old bathtub filled with potting mix and compost. The tub provides room for their roots to go deep. I can dump in a bucket of water from time to time to keep it moist. When it's looking seedy I throw in a handful of desiccated chook poo and it takes off again. And, because every mint plant I've ever grown naked has been quite literally munched to death, the lot is draped over with small gauge bird netting, so small that no butterfly or cabbage moth can get in and lay their dratted eggs.

For the last few years we've had the biggest mint harvest in Brunswick, I am sure – a bathtubful. We eat it in tabouleh, we use it in drinks, we toss it through salads. And, of course, we use it to flavour broad beans.

This broad bean and chicory mix is delicious served atop bruschetta: thick sourdough bread brushed with olive oil and grilled on a hot cast iron ridge pan until criss-crossed with char lines. In the absence of a cast iron griddle, you can also serve it atop a nice thick piece of toast.

Broad beans with chicory

- 1 kg broad beans in their pods
- 500g chicory or other strong green, washed and chopped coarsely
- 8 to 10 stalks mint
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
- 6 to 8 anchovies
- a lemon
- olive oil
- salt, pepper

Pod the broad beans. Bring a pot of water to the boil. Cook the broad beans and mint for 5 or so minutes – less for very young beans, more for very old ones. Drain. If the beans are very large, pop them out of their grey skins. Otherwise, leave them as they are. Drizzle with olive oil.

Warm a good swirl of olive oil over medium heat in a wide skillet. Add the anchovies and garlic, and sprinkle with salt. Stir constantly until you have a paste; but take care not to scorch the garlic.

Add the chicory, and stir. Clap the lid on, and leave it to wilt.

When the chicory has wilted, add the broad beans. Stir well to combine. Dress with lemon juice, and a drizzle with a little more olive oil if you wish. Serve.

Simplified and adapted from a recipe in The River Cafe Green Cook Book.

(Local: broad beans, chicory, mint, garlic, olive oil, lemon. Not local: anchovies, salt, pepper.)

Photo shows chicory with borlotti beans, another good option!

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