Tuesday, 12 June 2012
HERALDS OF AN ENGLISH SUMMER
Broad beans are one of my favourite vegetables and when they appear at the green grocer’s I know summer is here. Many of you of course will grow your own. Even better as you can pick them at the optimum time before they get too big and while the beans are still sweet and tender. Some will say why bother they are just as good from the freezer! And so they are but nothing can compare with a seasonal vegetable, freshly picked, freshly podded and then popped into the pot to be cooked.
For me the broad bean is the epitome of a traditional British summer time family feast, served either with roast or boiled ham or salmon. In my childhood, before the advent of farmed salmon, fresh salmon was strictly seasonal too and it used to appear at more or less the same time. My mother was what she used to describe as a plain cook. No fancy foreign food except of course, for curry, but she could cook a Wye or Severn Salmon to perfection. She served it with mayonnaise, the first broad beans and new potatoes from the garden tossed in mint and butter. It was my father’s favourite meal.
My father died in June (many, many years ago), the broad beans were ready for picking, the first potatoes for digging. My mother cooked a salmon and the whole family sat down to the feast. No one said much, but everyone thought the same thing and as we enjoyed the feast, tears rolled down our cheeks. Not that this has ever dimmed our enthusiasm, but rather intensified the enjoyment. Memory also plays an important part in taste.
NEW POTATO, BROAD BEAN AND PEA COMPOTE serves 4
12 small new potatoes (500 g)
1 kg young broad beans, in shells
500 g peas in their shells
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 level teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoon dry white wine
Handful of mint leaves, chopped
Salt and white pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Put the potatoes in to cold water, add salt, bring to the boil and simmer until not quite tender (15 - 20 minutes). In the meantime shell the broad beans and peas.
Cover the base of a saucepan with olive oil, add the chopped onion and cook over low heat until soft (5 minutes). Strain the potatoes and cut in half unless very small, and stir fry for a few minutes, then add the beans and peas, stir again and add salt to taste and a pinch of white pepper and the sugar. Add a ladle of hot water, stir and carry on cooking over low heat until the broad beans are tender. Add the wine as the pan dries out.
When the vegetables are tender, transfer to a serving dish add the chopped mint and serve at once.