Monday, 15 July 2013

Is life to short to skin a broad bean?

Is life to short to skin a broad bean?

Not pod them. Of course you have to pod them. But once podded and steamed, do you then pop them out of their skins?

Opinion is divided but the general consensus among the cognoscenti would seem to be that yes you should skin them, and the older the bean, the more pressing the need to skin. Broad bean skins can be tough and bitter tasting, but never one to bow to pressure, I have tended to just steam them and serve them as they are, allowing any dissent from the ranks to roll off my back. I ADORE broad beans, and can be quite intolerant of those (i.e. my children) who dare to express anything other than enjoyment when faced with them on the plate...  

When we were on our camping trip the other weekend, though, my friend brought some of her veg box broads with her, for what was a delicious chorizo & couscous dish, and insisted that the beans were skinned. A revelation, mainly because Pink who has hitherto rejected broad beans pronounced them "Quite good, really". They are much more subtle as a flavour with the skins off, and yes, much less bitter, although any broad beans knocking around at the moment are going to be pretty young, and not really bitter at all.

The garden is full of broad beans, there was fennel from the allotment and we had risotto - broad beans skinned. I think I have been converted.

I'm sure you don't need me to tell you how to make a risotto, and this evening's was a pretty unexact science. I should also say that I used fennel fronds from a golden fennel plant that is running rampant in the flower beds, because the Husband had trimmed the frondy bits off the actual fennel bulb before putting it in the fridge. The addition of the parsely and fennel fronds adds an extra flavour to the risotto, but you can leave it out.

Fennel & Broad Bean Risotto

olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
I stick of celery, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed (save the frondy bits for chopping up as garnish) and finely sliced
200g risotto rice
'nearly a litre' (that's what it said on the tub I got out of the freezer) of chicken stock
a good handful of broad bean pods - probably about 20, podded
20g Grana Padano cheese, finely grated plus extra to serve
a good handful of parsley and the fennel fronds, finely chopped
salt & pepper

Heat a good lug of olive oil in a heavy based saucepan and add the onion garlic and celery. 

Fry gently for a few minutes then add the fennel and continue to cook gently till the fennel is softening.

Put the stock in a pan on the stove and warm gently.

Steam the broadbeans for a few minutes till the skins are starting to split, then remove from the heat. While you’re making the risotto, you can stir with one hand and pop the beans out of the skins with the other. Alternatively, if you are more organised than me, do this before you start making the risotto.

Add in the rice and stir for a minute or so to coat with the oil in the pan, then start adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring as you go.

When the risotto rice is cooked through to the al dente point, remove from the heat. Taste first for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary, then stir in the skinned broad beans, the cheese and a knob or 2 of butter if you are feeling decadent. Put a lid on the pan and leave for a few minutes for the cheese and butter to melt.

Stir through the chopped herbs, and serve with more grated cheese.

Linking up to Herbs on Saturday/Cooking with Herbs  hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage


  1. So funny , i've always skinned them!! Mary x

  2. I skin them too and always feel a bit disappointed with the tiny, teeny pile of beans and the mass of pods. I have a recipe that uses the whole pod which I might give a go soon

  3. Yes, it is a bit disappointing, but at least it gets rid of any residual blackfly...

  4. I love fresh broad beans and find the effort to skin them is well worth it. There's a nice summer veg combo in Delia Sumer Collection that I often reproduce at home - peas, skinned broad beans, baby carrot, chopped spring onion and mint. Total summer!

    1. Tha sounds delicious - especially the peas and the mint. We've got both in the garden, so I'll remember that - thanks for the tip!

  5. Your risotto sounds so fresh and tasty. Love broad beans too, skinned or not, though kids will only eat them skinless. My dad has always grown them - just been to see him and there's still a healthy row of broad beans in their veg garden, but my step-mum has to do all that now. We did have some in a delicious salad, with skins left on :)

    1. I don't think I'd ever bothered to skin them before, but if that's how I get the kids to enjoy them, so be it!

  6. I always skin mine, unless I can get someone else to do them for me! Another lovely entry into cooking with herbs! Karen


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