Beans means spring. And this little seedling signals the dawning of a new green age.
It defied slug and snail to sprout almost overnight. The weather has been so bleak this year that Malta’s spring has started late. But now that we’ve had five days of almost non-stop sun and warmth, the hastily sown bean poked it head out growing inches in a day!
I found the dried bean in the back of my car among the kiddy debris. A spare bean, my son said, from the class science project on seed germination. I stuck it in a stone trough keen to follow up the school work with some home experimentation. That was a month ago and I’d forgotten all about it til now. The one that duly sprouted in the classroom and came home potted was also left forgotten in the car. Tipped out and dried out, it was a gonner. We’d salvaged this one though.
In praise of this second seedling’s perseverance and as a foodie ode to spring, I decided to make a simple, unadulterated dip that takes full advantage of the full flavour of the first crop of broad beans. The early broad beans are perfect. No need to double shell them as I have to painstakingly later on when they’re big broads.
Of course, my seedling will provide only enough beans to eat from the pod. But the fields around my village are a fine blooming sight of more mature broad beans waving in the wind. I stock up on panier full from the farmers’ market and dragoon J into helping me shell them. Ideal as a healthy lunch pack filling, I say. He’s not looking too keen. Never mind, it’s a great dip to quash adult hunger pangs while supper cooks. Now…all I need is garlic, olive oil, lots of parsley, a hint of mint and something to blitz them up.
Recipe below photos.
Spring Green Bean Dip
300g fresh broad beans, podded (shelled again if larger beans)
2 garlic cloves, chopped (or more if you like dips garlicky)
extra virgin olive oil – a glug to cook, more to blend
Sea salt & ground black pepper
juice of a lemon
pinch of dried chili (or fresh, if desired)
handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
sprigs of mint, ripped up
Gently heat a glug or two of the olive oil in thick-based pan, ideally a cast-iron skillet. Add the chopped garlic and fry gently for a minute but don’t let it burn. It just needs to infuse into the oil. Add the podded beans and toss them around in the oil for a minute.
Then, add a pinch of ground sea salt and black pepper, some chopped parsley, lemon juice, pinch of dried chopped or fresh chili (if using) and a large serving ladle of water. Heat gently, but don’t boil. Cover and let the beans steam over a gentle heat for around 5-10 minutes until tender, but not to a mush. Check to ensure the beans don’t stick and add a little more water if you find they’re drying out. You need some liquid left at the end of cooking.
When tender, let the bean mixture cool a little before putting in a food processor. Retain a few of the smaller beans as garnish. Add the ripped up mint and pulse to coarse chop. Then with the processor on medium speed, drizzle in some olive oil until it loosens into a spreadable paste texture. There should be some grain left so don’t puree’ it! You can also add some water to loosen the dip to balance out the olive oil. Mash by hand with potato masher or fork if you don’t have a processor.
Place in serving dish, cool and keep in fridge (up to 3 days) until required. Best to let it warm up a bit to room temperature before seving. Garnish with remaining beans and chopped parsley and some mint leaves. Plain water crackers strong enough to dig in with. And if you’re in Malta, Galletti biscuits are perfect to scoop it out!
All images © Liz Ayling 2012