Monday, July 22, 2013

Fava Beans

The Ramsay chicken recipe includes a risotto, a fava bean risotto. Having avoided schooling myself about fava beans, I was completely clueless about them except that Hannibal Lecter ate a census taker's liver with fava beans and a nice chianti.

Recognizing right away that the beans must be in the giant furry pods, I bought what I thought was a surplus and set about removing them from the pods.

Each pod is freakishly huge, about double the size of a regular green bean. The length of one pod selected at random is about that of a paring knife. The blade on the knife is 3.5" but the total length is 8".

Cutting the pod open I was stunned to find only four beans in there, each lying on a bed of pillowy white softness.

Plucking the beans out by separating them from the plant equivalent of an umbilical cord, I realized two things: this was pretty easy and my "surplus" of pods was not going to leave me with the bean mass recommended by the recipe. Going ahead and removing the beans from all the pods, I was left with a total mass of 136 grams.

This is when I started looking into fava beans online and found that at this point the outer portion needed to be removed from each bean. Selecting to steam mine, I waited until there was a slight color change, about 5-10 minutes. After transferring them to a bowl I found they were wrinkly.

Sure enough, the wrinkly white outer coat, once sliced, was easy to peel off. Actually, once a slit was made, the bean could be pinched out of the coat.

Ten minutes later, my fava beans were ready to be incorporated into risotto. This fava bean step took 49 minutes* longer than I had anticipated and put a near-stop to the chicken and rice.

Looking up fava beans in the Larousse, I was directed to broad beans (an aha! moment for me):
An annual leguminous plant cultivated throughout Europe for its flat seeds, used as food for man and animals. The broad bean was cultivated by ancient civilizations, particularly the Egyptians. It originated in Persia and Africa and has been used in the cuisine of the Mediterranean for centuries.
Dried beans are more nutritious than fresh ones: they are rich in amino acids and potassium salts and also contain large quantities of proteins and vitamins B and E. Broad beans contain a chemical substance that some people, particularly in the Mediterranean and Iran, are allergic to. The allergy, known as favism, is inherited and it leads to destruction of red blood cells resulting in severe anaemia.
The beans are shelled and the tough outer skin may be removed before cooking. They are cooked in boiling salted water. The classic preparation of broad beans is a puree, which is particularly good with pork. In Spanish cuisine they feature in fabada, a kind of cassoulet garnished with black pudding (blood sausage), chorizo, shoulder of pork, and white cabbage. 
Fava beans in the pods available at Grower's Direct for $1.52/1.18 lbs.

*From first picture to last, it took 50 minutes. I selected 45 minutes as the label, but you can probably crank through a pound of beans in much less time. You probably won't be stopping to take pictures or looking steps up on Google.