THIS week's recipe came to me, as many recipes do actually, when I was engaged in a boring, repetitive kitchen task. It often happens that, as you stand in one place, repeating the same action over and over again, like trimming lamb's kidneys, de-stoning plums, or removing the stalks from currants, you enter an almost Zen-like trance.
Your fingers seem to occupy themselves, and your brain goes off on a little walk by itself. And when mine goes a-wanderin', I often come up with some great recipes.
It's like a very lucid dream - your mind seems to empty of all other thought, leaving you clear to think about the ingredients. And this week, I had the mother of all menial tasks, the podding and peeling of the broad bean crop.
Luckily, the team at the caf helped out, as we'd had a rather good crop this year, but it still took a couple of days for us to process the whole lot.
I've bored you all before about my particular obsession with broad beans and how they must be not only podded, but then liberated from their purplish-green outer shell, to avoid not only a foul cooking odour (I always think of school dinners), but a barely-digestible, wrinkly grey coat that does the poor little things absolutely no favours at all.
For the true, crisp, fresh flavour of the broad bean to shine, one must take the time and effort to slit each bean, and remove the green kernel from its unpleasant bonds.
So, as I sat, entranced, peeling away, I started thinking of the broad beans as an ingredient, and, as we were having a rare hot sunny day, my mind wandered to the salad-y end of the culinary repertoire, and the recipe began to appear.
I thought of herbs, and clean, fresh-tasting cheese. Yes! I had it.
So, today we're making a lovely chilled salad of broad beans, peas, new potatoes and salty feta cheese, enlivened with a tart lemon dressing and a little fresh mint.
It is a modern classic, made using almost entirely produce from the garden, and many of you should have the ingredients right there outside the house yourselves. This year, Tracy has been growing potatoes in a new way, in large green sacks, and I'll admit, I've complained about them getting in the way of my manoeuvring the car around the yard, but I shall complain no more, as they have yielded some of the best potatoes I have ever eaten.
The variety, Spunta, is the one grown in Cyprus, where the red, sandy soil works wonders and produces an amazing, intense flavour. It seems they like Yorkshire soil, too. The skins are thin and flavoursome, and the flesh is ivory-coloured and bursting with tastiness. Perfect for simple boiling or for use in cool-temperature dishes like salads.
Looking back at the broad beans, I had a quick brainwave and decided to add a little crunch to proceedings by making 'habas fritas'.
These crunchy deep-fried broad beans are a staple snack in Spain, and are absolutely delicious, full of that intense umami savouriness we're all reading about these days. Along with the crisp vegetables and the soft, salty cheese, they make a delightful textural addition to the finished dish. You will want to make more of these, as they are incredibly moreish. Worth all that peeling, certainly!
Stephen Jackson's Broad Bean, Pea and Feta Salad For the salad: 250g salad potatoes, such as Spunta or Charlotte 150g good Feta cheese, cut into small cubes 250g broad bean kernels 250g fresh or frozen peas A little fresh garden mint For the habas fritas: 200g broad bean kernels, split in half Sunflower oil A little Maldon salt For the dressing: 100ml fresh lemon juice 300ml Extra-virgin olive oil Pinch sugar Salt & freshly-ground black pepper Method: First, make the habas fritas. Make sure the broad beans are split into two halves. This allows them to cook quickly and evenly.
Heat a few inches of sunflower oil in a large, heavy-based pan, until a cube of bread sizzles the instant it hits the oil.
Drop the beans into the oil, carefully, and stir around in the oil to separate them.
Fry, stirring constantly, until the beans have become deeply golden in colour, then remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper.
Season well with salt, and allow to cool.
Set a pan of well-salted water to boil, and simmer the potatoes until tender.
Cool a little, then slice or dice according to your preference.
In a fresh pan, heat more salted water, and blanch the beans for a few minutes, then plunge them into cold water to arrest the cooking process.
Drain and reserve. Repeat the process with the peas, making sure you do not overcook them.
Make the dressing by whisking the oil and lemon juice together with a pinch of sugar, then seasoning to taste.
To assemble the salad, carefully and quickly toss the potatoes, vegetables and cheese together with just enough of the dressing to coat the pieces.
Tip into bowls or plates, and garnish with some fresh mint and a few of the crunchy broad beans.
A big, buttery Chardonnay would go well here.
* CHILL OUT: A lovely chilled salad of broad beans, peas, new potatoes and salty feta cheese, enlivened with a tart lemon dressing and a little fresh mint... delicious!
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|Publication:||Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)|
|Date:||Aug 19, 2011|
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