Fava beans, broad beans, Vicia faba, whatever you prefer to call them… they’ve begun to show up at my local Italian greengrocer. There was a time when I was committed to growing both peas and fava beans during the spring season, but once I moved into an Italian neighbourhood I decided there was little point in pushing to make both happen in a small space and so these days I grow loads of peas and buy favas.
But don’t listen to me. There is plenty of reason to grow your own favas, namely the deliciously, tender stems and leaves that you can’t buy anywhere. I grow peas for the same reason and for now they have won my favour until such a time that I have the space to accommodate both.
But I digress. The first favas have made their appearance and I immediately snapped up a pound in order to test their quality. We ate them for dinner the other night in a simple spelt pasta dish tossed together with shallots, good quality bacon (from our favourite butcher Sanagan’s) olive oil, and Parmesan cheese.
Having deemed them to be good, I went back for more so I could make a dish that has become a bit of a seasonal tradition in our house: fava beans with feta and mint. This is a super easy dish to make. So easy in fact, that I had never bothered to commit it to paper until now. Instead, I wing it, adding and tasting the mix until it looks and tastes right. Sometimes I add Balsamic vinegar for acidity, and sometimes I use lemon juice. If you use lemon juice, I suggest adding about a tablespoon or so. I don’t put garlic in ours, but you might prefer the added bite.
RECIPE: Fresh Fava Beans with Feta and Mint
- 3 lbs fava beans in their pods
- 1/2 cup or so feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar
- Sea salt to taste
Shuck the beans, separating them from their pods.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the shucked beans until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. Peel the tough outer skin from any beans that are bigger than your thumb. Small beans have a thin outer skin that should be tender enough to eat.
In a bowl, combine the peeled beans and the remaining ingredients. Store in the fridge until you are ready to eat.
- Mash the fava beans and serve on toast or crackers.
- Serve the bean mixture with warm or cold pasta.
- Add chopped bacon or diced pancetta to the mix. Fava beans go well with salty ingredients.
- Substitute the feta cheese with dollops of ricotta or freshly grated Parmesan.