Broad Beans

The broad bean is one of the oldest pulses known to man, infact they have been found dried in Egyptian tombs, primative dwellings and neolithic villages: therefore more than five thousand years ago, the most poor classes were nourished abundantly by these pulses and until a few years ago the dried broad bean was a symbol of a poor table and considered food for the common people. And today cooked broad beans have fallen into disuse and so are considered a curiosity and very nearly a delicacy… The method widely used in Tuscany is to eat them raw when they are still quite small. These broad beans are offered with the skin (it is the true pod which is thrown away because it is absolutely unusable) and called pods and consumed generally at the end of the meal with fresh pecorino cheese (called “bacellone”) and a little salt: an exquisite dish that may be consumed as an excellent snack in the countryside where you may taste them just cooked. An ancient use that today is revived is to offer them as hors d’oeuvres peeled and seasoned with oil, salt and pepper and eaten with small pieces of pecorino cheese. When they are dried or large and hard they are cooked in stews. The most widely used preparation takes its name broad beans alla senese and needs cooking for at least forty minutes with bacon, garlic, parsley, and naturally, oil salt and pepper and a little broth to keep it moist now and again and needs to be cooked for a long time: at the end the broad beans are very soft and the liquid reduced. There are those who substitute the garlic for an onion and the broth with a tomato sauce, but the recipe that follows the cooking “in white” is certainly the oldest in respect to the particular flavour of the broad bean. At one time you cooked the “favetta” (today disappeared ....we hope that it will be reintroduced very soon!) a first course widely used in the area of Livorno. This preparation shows that when it is half cooked you add a little sliced “verzotto” cabbage and, completing the cooking, you mix it all with spaghetti “al dente” not drained very much, stirring well, in a pot over a low heat and serve it with chopped basil and grated pecorino cheese. A taste of another time, dishes that remind us of a culinary art that is impossible in which not to feel some nostalgia.