February 15, 2019
Broad beans originate from the Mediterranean and have been cultivated for thousands of years before they became almost forgotten in the last century or so. Until potato was introduced, they were one of the main staple foods in the Slovenian diet and were later often associated with the food of the poor, which is perhaps one of the reasons for their post-war decline in popularity. The second reason for their decline, as restaurant owner Roberto Gregorčič once speculated for Delo, might lie in a switch from polyculture to monoculture in farming, which renders these beans prone to aphid infections.
In recent years, with environmentalism and comeback of “the local”, many of the almost forgotten plants are being rediscovered, and so are broad beans, which we didn’t even need to go to search for to the central market place, but just got them, local and organic, in the nearest supermarket.
An important feature of the broad bean is that it's got quite a thick skin, much thicker than the ordinary bean, but it can be easily removed, especially while beans are still warm. They can be cooked and served in similar ways as ordinary beans, in a simple bean salad, or as an ingredient in more complex dishes, which is what we are aiming for today.
To get the logic behind this recipe, imagine a classic Eastern Adriatic side dish for fish: chard with potato. We’ll replace potato with broad beans and chard with spinach, as fresh chard is not available in this season. We also won’t be making fish but will enrich our side dish with some interesting flavours so that it will serve as a salad/main dish on its own: truffles, anchovies (leave these out if vegetarian) and red wine.
If dry, the broad beans need to be soaked first. Place them in a pot of water, cover and leave in the fridge overnight.
Then replace the water, add bay leaves and cook them for an hour, or until cooked. Then peel them by removing the black dot first. They should then jump out of a skin quite easily.
Chop the garlic and stir fry till it smells good. Add blanched chard (or spinach) and broad beans. Broad beans can be semi or fully pureed before being added to the spinach. We just mashed them a little. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir a bit longer until the alcohol from the wine is all gone.
Serve with a glass of red wine.