Ingredient of the Week: Broad Beans
Broad beans are a member of the legume family like chickpeas, lentils and peanuts. They are sometimes called fava beans. They are a fairly hardy vegetable, meaning that they can be successfully grown in many different environments, but they are at their best fresh from the end of June to mid September. You can also easily find them tinned or frozen all year round. They are green in colour and have a slightly sweet but earthy taste, with a similar texture to a kidney bean, if a little bit bigger in size.
Why are they good for me?
Broad beans are incredibly nutritious. They are a good plant based source of protein, making them a great addition to any meal that you are trying to increase the protein content of. They are also a fantastic source of fibre, which when partnered with protein, make a great food for helping with weight loss. This is because they have both been found to keep you feeling fuller for longer, thus helping to reduce the quantity of food you eat.
Vitamins and minerals that broad beans are high in include folate, (vitamin B12) thiamin, (vitamin B1) manganese, copper, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium. So as you can see, they really do pack a micro-nutritional punch. This combination of vitamins and minerals combine to help to keep us healthy in several ways. The manganese and copper are both important antioxidants needed to boost our immune system and fight off cancer causing free radicals. These 2 nutrients, as well as phosphorous, have been found to play an important role in maintaining bone strength. Iron plays a very important role in developing healthy red blood cells and transporting oxygen in the blood. Our muscles need oxygen to function and if we can’t get enough we feel tired, weak and have low energy, all things we want to avoid. Having a low red blood cell count is called anaemia. The important thing to remember though with this kind of iron found in plant sources rather than meat sources, is that the body benefits from having it alongside vitamin C to help with the absorption of it. Foods high in vitamin C include rocket, mango and cauliflower.
How do I prepare them?
Fresh broad beans need to be removed from their pods before they are eaten by first boiling them for a few minutes. Then rinse them in cold water before slitting the pod with a knife and popping out the beans. You can then also double pod them by peeling off the skin surrounding each bean with your fingers, if the recipe you are making calls for this. Personally, although they might taste nicer fresh, I find the preparation process too fiddly and prefer to just buy them frozen, as they are then good to go. It makes my life so much easier.
How do I cook them?
Broad beans are best steamed or boiled. Once podded they don’t take very long to cook, so always add them towards the end of the cooking process. If cooking from frozen then just heat them through. They make a really tasty addition to a healthy pasta, like this smoked salmon primavera or in a risotto, like this chicken and spring vegetable one. They add an interesting texture to this curried cabbage and courgette dish and add much needed protein to this bacon barley pot.
This creamy prawn, cabbage and barley one pan is a really healthy, fresh dish that reminds me of spring, in which the broad beans work really well. Another really good use for broad beans are pureed in to a healthy dip, a bit like humous. I used to avoid any recipes that include broad beans, as I didn’t really know how to prepare them properly, but now I’ve discovered they are just as good frozen, I like to use them a lot more. I hope reading this blog inspires you to start cooking with them more and please share any recipes with me. As its still quite a new vegetable to me, I’m still discovering different healthy ways to cook with it.
Thanks for reading and speak soon.