The recipes to which I am most drawn are the simplest, those that do not require a great deal of faffing to prepare, and which deliver every single time. Whereas once I had the knack of choosing complication over simplicity, those recipes that took hours to make, that developed skills, impressive in their many-ingredient-laden glory (i.e. show-off food), since my mojo upped and left, its more recent return means I've now a new knack that makes me happy: that of seeking out the sophisticated but wonderfully straightforward. Complicated still wends its way through my cooking, a recent tart involving sage and garlic-rubbed wedges of pumpkin, sauteed leeks and fennel, pastry making, custard-making (see? who really wants to read all of that within a recipe?) being an obvious example, but those sort of meals tend toward complexity because I'm making it up as I go along.
I don't set out that way. If I did, dinner might never - not ever - arrive.
We planted loads of broad beans (favas, for my American friends) this year, mostly as a manure crop for the dry, empty bed that lines the pathway to the front steps, but also because I don't think there's a crop around that delivers more - visually, edibly - than the broad bean. Standing tall in their cane and string structure, they cheerfully greet visitors and birds alike, the latter using my connecting sticks as a worm-spying perch. I like them as a plant so much (and had so many seeds from the previous owner) that I grew another crop in the kitchen garden.
I think it safe to say we've a proper, PROPER crop on our hands.
The hunt for new recipes is underway. This weekend, I consulted the books (as you do) and this idea - beautiful for its brevity - from Anna Del Conte leaped out. I've no intention of rewording, by the way. Perfect as is. From her incredibly useful Amaretto, Apple Cake and Artichokes.
pecorino con le favre
"This is hardly a recipe. It is the way Tuscans start their meal in April when the broad beans are still young and their skin is tender.
All you have to do is buy 450g (1lb) of pecorino, preferably seasoned and Tuscan, and 1.5kg of young broad beans.
Cut the pecorino into wedges and put them on a dish. Put the unpodded broad beans in a bowl and let everybody get on with it. The drink must be red wine; a good Chianti Classico would be perfect."
Ideal for when my beans are a little further along, just in time for the holidays. The essence of simplicity, to be eaten on our dilapidated red table beneath the spreading arms of the oak tree out the back while the sun shines. I think a big block of feta would work here, too.
Of course, there are other edible uses for this long-cultivated plant. You need to pinch out the tops when pods begin to form, and, in an act of waste-not want-not, let me tell you, they are a revelation when stir-fried with new season garlic and stuffed into the folds of a fat omelette (an idea gleaned from Colin Spencer and Jamie Oliver's gardener, Brian Skilton (who I may just be a little bit in love with)). And then there's the fact that they fix nitrogen to the soil, look stunning, make me happy...what more could one ask for?