Broad Bean Bellota Salad
I struggle to remember how exactly broad beans were served up to me as a child, but this is probably repression doing its useful work, as what I do recall is a pervasive horror at their rubbery, bubbly skins and yellowed, starchy insides. Thankfully, the broad bean is one those ingredients that current food trends have dramatically rescued from prior mistreatment. Cooked a whole lot less, and popped out of theirs nasty little skins, these beans are totally transformed – bright garden green and full of summertime.
Zesty lemon and torn up mint leaves bring out the freshness of the broad beans in this salad. The Bellota jamon, supremely fatty and full flavoured, is a fantastic accompaniment, and gives the whole thing a little more heft. Vegetarian versions could focus on the different possibilities offered by cheese – salted ricotta would be fun, if this is your kind of thing. I quite like the idea of great daubs of goat’s curd and a good smatter of pepper, and maybe a little back-of-fork-mashing too, just to get everything acquainted…
(Serves 2 as a starter, or 4 as a side)
- 800g fresh broad beans in shell (this will provide a small bowl-full when shelled)
- Zest and juice of two small lemons
- Handful of mint leaves – picked from their stems
- 50g Bellota jamon (or any other variety of Pata Negra)
- 30g Parmesan cheese
- Olive oil
- Sea salt & pepper
Bring a medium-sized pot of water to the boil. Add the shelled broad beans and cook for 2 minutes before removing to drain and under cold running water. To make sure the beans really do cool down fast, place the drained beans into an ice bath. I also find that this makes them easier to remove from their skins.
Now – the fun bit! I suggest you arrange yourself at a table and pull up a chair, cause standing over the sink while doing this does take away the joy a bit. My tried and true method for getting the broad bean out of its skin without squishing it to smithereens is to make a small incision in the skin with the thumbnail of my left hand, while squeezing the bean between my thumb and forefinger with the right. The little hole offers a path of least resistance – squeezing alone transfers the pressure needed to break the skin onto the bean itself.
In a bowl, combine the beans with the lemon zest and mint leaves (tearing any larger leaves). Add a splash of olive oil and the lemon juice to dress, along with some sea salt and a generous amount of pepper. Arrange on a serving plate, placing the jamon throughout, and shaving parmesan across the top.