the first thing andrea did upon arrival was to get podding. i grabbed the cumin and ground it none too finely as she prepped her broad beans - picked just an hour or so before - and we chatted, as folk who grow and cook do, about our respective gardens, about composting, about what we've been doing in our kitchens. swapping fresh broad beans for dried, andrea's bessara was completely different to any i've had, whipped to a buttery paste of soft jade, the peaks dressed in the bowl with a heavy dusting of paprika, falling in red clumps in the hollows, just the way i like. we ate outside, feet stamping against the cold, dipping and cooing over the flavour. cultivating gardeners as friends seems to happen effortlessly these days. i feel inordinately lucky.
my own broad bean crop went in too late - end of july, she notes to self - planted out in surprisingly organised rows by the front door, something i vow to do yearly from now on, and in a mass planting, one week later, out the back in the kitchen garden proper. they are thriving, fixing nitrogen to the soil, standing hip-high and looking gorgeous, but i have my doubts. when d. saw them a few weeks ago, he had his, but i can and indeed do live, as ever, in hope.
you live a little. you learn a tonne.
it occurred to me this weekend that i've not shared much in the way of progress of late here. correcting that now. above is how things looked in the kitchen garden one sunday late in september. the broad beans (far left) have grown a lot since then, and the rhubarb (front left) is coming along brilliantly after being ruthlessly divided mid-winter. changes and additions you'll need filling in on soon, but for now, this rather bad 'blad shot's the best i can offer.
i've just felt so...busy. i'm no longer afraid to tell you it's been a tough year, yet somehow, in and among it all, my cooking mojo returned. it'd been gone for so long that i'd almost forgotten just how good cooking can make one feel.
the garden is full of pleasant surprises. the rocket has grown hilariously huge, some stalks almost as thick as my wrist, sturdy bases amid a sea of edible white blossom. i like that it bolts just so. the coriander is about to follow suit, and the balm that i cursed for its invasive bastardry so often last year is, this, wonderful in all manner of things that mint might go in to, just gorgeous in salsa verde. i've learned to tame it, to rip it out by the handful, knowing full-well it will come back. relaxing about the weeds means less planting, i've decided, so now we just go with the flow. i made a salad with tiny blades of sheep sorrel from the front lawn this weekend as if to prove just that. it was very good.
but what, after all that, of andrea's bessara you ask?
andrea's bessara, a moroccan broad bean dip
simmer 2 mugs-worth of shelled broad beans in a saucepan for about 10 minutes. chop 2 cloves of garlic and grind a little cumin - a teaspoon or so - while they cook. drain the beans. whiz in a food processor with the garlic and cumin, about 1/3 of a cup of olive oil and thin, if need be, with a little stock (powdered stock, thank god) until the consistency of hummus. season to taste, whiz again, then dust liberally with sweet paprika (so pretty against the green) and eat with a trace of warmth still clinging to it.