If you’ve read this blog before, you’ve probably worked out that I have a love affair with food. There are certain foods that I seriously adore…not just for their nutritional benefits, but for their absolute beauty. One such food is the cleverly disguised fava bean (broad bean), which usually heralds the arrival of spring here in Victoria. They are one of the easiest things to grow in the home garden, so I’m always surprised when people have never tried them! I’m even more surprised when people have tried them and don’t like them. Further exploration reveals why: they have usually eaten them with the thick outer skin attached. Please, please don’t do this–it’s a great disservice to the fava AND to your tastebuds! Let’s face it, once cooked, that grey skin looks like a fat tick. Maybe that’s where one of the common names “tic bean” comes from. And there’s no beauty in that. Ditch the canned ones too.
So, let’s look at the nutritional info first. Fava beans have a great nutritional profile—high in protein, fibre, folate, iron, calcium and isoflavones. They also contain levodopa (L-dopa), the precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine which helps regulate our mood and our libido (both reasons to love them).
Now on to the good stuff—how to honour the bean so you can develop your own love affair with it. Admittedly fava beans are a bit of work for the yield, but if done properly, worth every bit of the effort:
Step 1. Put a pot of water on to boil and start by removing the beans from their shells.
Step 2. Add the beans to the water and reduce to a simmer for 2 minutes tops (a blanching method of sorts). If you have big beans in the bunch, they may take a little longer, but don’t cook for more than 3 minutes as they can get mushy. The key is to keep them crisp so pick one of each size out and just test them. You’ll notice the light green skins turning grey.
Step 3. Drain the beans in a colander or mesh sieve and immediately immerse the beans in a bowl of ice water to prevent further cooking. This also makes them easier to handle this next (somewhat tedious) step.
Step 4. Gently remove the grey outer skin to reveal the bright green beauty of the bean. I suggest doing this over a bowl as they can be a little slippery.
The beans are now ready to be added to your own creation. Fava beans are a great addition to salads, grains such as quinoa, or just on their own with a little lemon juice, olive oil and sea salt. I decided to combine mine with chorizo, fresh mint, goat cheese and freshly ground black pepper (see the pics below). This little dish is a great feature for a tapas party or a side dish to salmon or chicken. Enjoy!
Note of caution: Those with a hereditary deficiency in the glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) enzyme, should avoid fava beans as they can cause a disorder known as favism, which can result in hemolytic anemia and kidney failure.