Rus­sell Nor­man’s sea­sonal broad bean salad

Esquire (UK) - - Contents - By Rus­sell Nor­man

“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chi­anti.” — Dr Han­ni­bal Lecter, The Si­lence of the Lambs (1991)

Na­ture has its way of warn­ing us when we are in dan­ger. The black and yel­low stripes of a wasp are so ef­fec­tive a sig­nal to stay away that we have repli­cated them in the hu­man world, too: health-and-safety “Cau­tion wet floor” signs, “Po­lice do not cross” tape — and Ali G’s track­suit. The fact that SpongeBob SquarePants and Lady Gaga also favour black and yel­low is fur­ther proof, if it were needed, that this is a colour com­bi­na­tion that sig­nals dan­ger.

Red is sim­i­larly fore­bod­ing. It means stop (just look at traf­fic lights the world over) but it also means, “Eat this and you might die.”

The poi­sonous dart frog of Cen­tral Amer­ica cer­tainly com­mu­ni­cates this rather ef­fec­tively with its bright red back. And a sin­gle bite of the red-gilled mush­room known omi­nously as “Satan’s Bo­lete” will ef­fec­tively turn your stom­ach inside out. Buon ap­petito!

Green, how­ever, is good. It sym­bol­ises life and vi­tal­ity. It is the colour na­ture de­cided to give to chloro­phyll, that mirac­u­lous chem­i­cal that causes all plants to res­onate with the fre­quency that sits right in the mid­dle

of the rain­bow. We call vegetable sell­ers “green­gro­cers” and even ab­bre­vi­ate the ed­i­ble plant king­dom to the sim­ple word “greens” when talk­ing about eat­ing them. There is some­thing in­her­ently healthy about the colour green and, in the spring and sum­mer months, my kitchen, fridge and din­ner plate tend to be full of food of this hue.

Broad beans (or fava beans as they are known in Italy and the US) are such a won­der­fully vi­brant ex­pres­sion of green­ness that I look for­ward to their ar­rival each year with joy and an­tic­i­pa­tion. Once pod­ded, they tend to look a lit­tle dulled be­cause of the white mem­brane that sur­rounds each pulse, but pinch it off and, hey presto, there’s a beau­ti­ful bean inside that is even more ver­dant than the bright green cas­ing from which it came. Their grassy, nutty flavour is en­hanced by a lit­tle blanch­ing. This is not re­ally cook­ing, it is sim­ply teas­ing them out of their shell and help­ing them to be a lit­tle less coy.

Like peas, broad beans do tend to dis­ap­pear as you pod them; the temptation to eat them raw while you work al­ways proves just a lit­tle too great. But they are a glo­ri­ous sum­mer in­gre­di­ent, have a long sea­son and are so ver­sa­tile that I en­joy them well into Septem­ber.

The fol­low­ing del­i­cate dish is a per­fect show­case for the ten­der, young broad beans of June and can be served as a starter or as a light lunch on a warm day with a glass of cold, crisp Gavi di Gavi. Much more ap­pro­pri­ate than chi­anti. Just be­ware of wasps.

Rus­sell Nor­man’s new cook­book Venice: Four Sea­sons of Home Cook­ing (Pen­guin Fig Tree) is out now

Pho­to­graph by Dan Burn-Forti

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