Broad beans are finally in season over here after bravely battling through an eternity of rainy days and plant-destroying gales. I had what looked like a big paper bag full in my veg box a couple of weeks ago. Nik and I shelled them together the day before I cooked them, standing side by side in the kitchen. Marvelling, as every year, at the thick protective cushioning in each pod. So thick and tempting looking. But a little lavish perhaps on the bean to pod ratio – by the time we were done there were barely enough beans to fill a cup.
Starting out to make lunch for the two of us the the next day there were barely enough beans to feed one, never mind two. I stuck to most of my original plan for the beans but padded them out with some leftover chickpeas. This worked well so I thought I’d share the tip; chickpeas make a great substitution if you don’t have enough broad beans as the flavour and colour of the chickpeas don’t compete with the long-awaited broad beans and the texture is surprisingly similar.
There’s a very similar amount of protein in both broad beans and the chick peas (about 8g of protein per 100g) and just a little bit less fibre in the chickpeas (4g versus 6g per 100g) so they make a great nutritional substitution too. The protein and fibre together make them a satisfying option for lunch.
I double podded my beans here. If they’re in a creamy sauce like this tagliatelle with broad beans, chicken, mustard and mint it doesn’t matter so much, but in a spread like this you want to see the splendid emerald of the inner bean, not the greyer outer casing. Besides, by the time you’ve podded them once it’s not really so much of a stretch to do it again.
You can serve this on toast like I did (or anything else designed for spreading), or else eat it as a side dish or dip. I think it would be particularly lovely with fresh trout or salmon.
Recipe for Broad bean, chilli, lemon and chickpea spread
I use canned chickpeas for this. You can vary the ratio of chickpea to broad bean according to how much of each you have available to you. If you plan to use this as a dip you might want to use a blender to get a more uniform texture.
Enough for lunch for two
1 cup full of podded broad beans
Half a cup of cooked chickpeas
Zest and juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon grated parmesan
A pinch of red chilli flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
A very small pinch of sea salt
2 tsp olive oil
Bring a pan of water to boil. Add the broad beans and boil for 5 minutes or until the larger beans are just tender.
Add the chickpeas for the last 2 minutes of cooking time.
Drain the beans and chickpeas, reserving a little of the cooking water.
As soon as the beans have cooled enough to handle remove and discard any tough outer skins.
Put the beans and chickpeas into a flat dish and mash them to a coarse spread (I use a plastic potato masher but a sturdy fork would work). Add the lemon juice and zest, parmesan and chilli flakes and stir together. Add a splash of the reserved cooking water if you'd like the texture to be a little looser.
Season to taste and drizzle the olive oil over when you serve.