You wouldn’t think of broad beans as controversial, but we’ve certainly found ourselves in many heated debates about them: should the thin membrane be removed before cooking or should it stay on? To peel or not to peel?
For many cooks, peeling broad beans is just something you do, like peeling a banana – you don’t eat the skin.
Don’t peel, we say. If they are nice and fresh, they’ll be delicious.
If they are old and mealy, they won’t be nice, skin on or off. So many people give this lovely bean a miss because they think it’s too much work, which is an incredible shame as broad beans are a celebration of spring, a treat that should be enjoyed throughout the season.
Don’t peel, we say. The whole joy of broad beans – that bittersweet taste, that crunch – it’s all in the skin. Lose that and you are basically left with something that tastes like a garden pea. If you want that, just get garden peas.
Don’t peel. It is so much work, so time consuming. We bought a bag of broad beans once in a farmers’ market in south Kensington. We shelled and peeled them on the bus back home to Battersea, where we lived at the time. We got off the bus 45 minutes later with a fistful of beans, a bag full of waste and aching fingers. There are much better ways to spend your precious kitchen time.
If you’re still not convinced, you will be once you have tried this recipe. It’s a recipe for meatballs, yes, but the broad beans are the stars here: cooked in olive oil, gentle spices and plenty of dill, with leeks and courgettes that melt into the sauce, while the beans, sheltered in their skins, keep their shape and flavour through the cooking, so when you take a spoonful, they roll off the tongue and pleasantly pop in your mouth. You will never peel a broad bean again.
Honey & Co. At Home: Middle-Eastern recipes from our kitchen by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, published by Pavilion Books. Image credit to Patricia Niven.