We started a little vegetable patch on our back roof at the start of the summer. This was to give us something to do when staying within our own houses was necessary — and also to fulfil a long harboured urge to have greener fingers.
In raised wooden boxes made of palettes, filled with organic compost, we sowed some choice seeds. The seeds were provided by a chef friend of mine with the greenest fingers. Her ‘plot’ consists of a tiny broom cupboard-sized concrete back yard in a small rented terrace house in Dublin City centre.
In this extremely unassuming if not outright inhospitable space, she has somehow managed to cultivate an impressive array of different vegetables, herbs and leaves. The thing that is perhaps most noticeable are the very green climbing broad beans, hugging tall sticks of bamboo skywards in the narrow space.
In the ornate tin, filled with all sorts of rare and heritage seeds from the Irish seed savers association, were a little packet of dried broad beans from her back yard plot.
It was these that I was perhaps most excited to see grow and I was not disappointed. Within a week or two the fat grub-like shoots began to disturb the soil and emerge into the sunshine.
Now two months on, we have our first beginnings of bean pods. Still too young to sow, I have gathered some from my generous chef friend for my experimentations.
The backyard plot has somehow allowed for a large bowl of fat, long bean pods, just about enough to make three meals from.
They are a little laborious in their preparation. Removing all the beans from their leathery pods is time-consuming work.
I like to go a step further and remove the papery outer skin from each bean which is best done by very quickly dipping them in boiling water and then refreshing them in cold water before slipping them out of the skins.
From a large bowl of pods you will end up with a pretty unimpressive amount of actual beans. I made them go as far as possible with these recipes but keep in mind you will need a lot of pods to give you a usable amount of beans.
This dish of pureed broad beans is absolutely everywhere. It represents perfectly the simplicity and freshness of ‘la cucina povera’ or peasant cooking. The philosophy of humble, in-season ingredients, simple cooking techniques and unpretentious ways of eating are all things we ourselves believe in when it comes to the joy of making good food.
There is an immutable pleasure in eating food that follows this ethos. It is about the pureness of simple ingredients rather than any fuss, ceremony or elaborate techniques which makes us excited to make food.
350g broad beans, podded weight
1/2 clove of garlic, crushed
A handful of mint leaves
Juice of half a lemon
3-4 tbsp of very good extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
Cook the broad beans in a medium-sized pot of boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes. We like to slip them out of their outer skins although it isn’t absolutely necessary. Refresh with cold water and place in a food processor with the garlic, lemon juice, mint leaves and most of the olive oil.
Blitz until very smooth, check for seasoning and scoop out into a serving dish. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and season lightly with sea salt and black pepper.
It needs to be as joyous to eat as it is simple to prepare. Just like with the dip, this dish calls for only the bare minimum of ingredients to create something that tastes beautiful and unfussy.
Salty cheeses like pecorino pair really well with broad beans, intensifying the sweetness of the beans through contrast.
200g broad beans, podded weight
Par-boil the beans and slip them out of their outer skins. We like to chop the beans roughly, although you can leave them whole if you wish.
Cook the linguine as per packet instructions in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve some of the pasta water.
Heat a large saucepan over a medium-high heat and melt the butter. Add the broad beans and a couple of spoonfuls of the pasta water.
Simmer this very gently before adding the pasta back to the pot and stirring it around the butter and beans with a pair of tongs. Shave over the pecorino and give the dish a good crack of black pepper before serving.
Summer rolls are very simple: Fresh raw ingredients wrapped in thin translucent rice paper. This is basically a way of offering as pure a bite of summer fresh ingredients as is possible. A good salty dip is essential for this, we like to make this slightly spicy, soy and sesame one, similar to a gyoza or Chinese dumpling dip.
You could also forgo the asian flavours and opt for a simpler dressing made with lemon juice, sea salt crushed garlic and olive oil or even something balsamic based.
The ingredients for the rolls themselves is determined by what is good, available and in season at any one time. This is what we had in our own little vegetable patch.
Broadbeans 300g, podded weight
1/2 cucumber, cut into matchsticks
1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
4-6 radishes, sliced very thinly
1 small red chilli, chopped very finely
Handful of coriander leaves, chopped
Mixed garden leaves (we used mizuna, mustard, baby beet tops, young chard, lambs lettuce, rocket and some oriental greens)
6 summer roll wrappers
2 tbsp of Light soy
2 tbsp of mirin
1 tbsp of rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp of sesame oil
1 medium red chilli, sliced very finely
Small handful of coriander leaves, chopped
Par boil the broad beans in boiling salted water for just two to three minutes before refreshing in cold water. Peel the outer skin off each bean.
Whisk together the dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Arrange all your ingredients for the summer rolls in front of you. Have a bowl of water to reconstitute the rice paper in a set about assembling the rolls with a balanced ratio of ingredients in each other. Try not to over stuff or under stuff them.
Serve with the dip.