There’s a small Lebanese caff and takeaway here on Essex Road. They don’t have a licence but you can take your own booze and have a lovely evening with simple food, really lovely staff and the occasional snippet of amusing take-away customer banter. The other day I ordered a side dish of broad beans which was absolutely delicious, so I asked the waiter how they were cooked and, without skipping a beat he said, “If I tell you that, madam, I will have to kill you.” We agreed that I was prepared to take that risk.
For me, shelling the broad beans is part of the fun and it reminds me of childhood summers, but of course you can buy frozen ones if you’re short of time.
To serve 4 people as a side dish you’ll need about 20 beans per person and you’ll find between 4 and 8 beans in each pod, depending on the variety. (Unless you’re inviting me to dinner, in which case you’ll need about 80 for me and a few for yourself.)
80 beans (10-20 pods)
A handful of fresh coriander leaf. Chopped.
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped, or crush them straight into the oil using a garlic press.
A generous pinch of sea salt flakes.
Shell the beans and boil them in plenty of unsalted water for 5-7 minutes. Cooking time depends on the size and age of the bean, so if they’re big and tough looking give them a little longer. (Some people blanch them and remove the skins as well as the pods, but I quite like the skins). Drain the beans, set them aside and place the pan back on the hob.
Heat a generous splash of olive oil in the pan until it’s hot but not smoking, Crush the garlic into the hot oil, add a pinch of sea salt flakes, put a lid on it and fry gently for 2 to 3 minutes. You don’t want the garlic brown, just soft. Add the coriander leaf to the garlicky, salty oil, mix it around and immediately add back the broad beans. Stir gently with a wooden spoon so that the beans become coated in the garlic/coriander oil. Transfer the beans to a serving dish and squeeze the juice of a lime over them. Serve immediately.
There’s a recipe for broad bean and pancetta salad in the Essex Road recipe collection, so if you pledge, that’s something else to look forward to!
Channeling my inner Steve Chapman this week, here’s Banter the Bean.