I'm not sure that you can get any simpler than this recipe. In fact, it's barely even a recipe, but that makes it light work to prepare (and eat) as a summer lunch or light supper, or a side dish for salmon or other meaty fish. The properly vivid green of the skinned broad beans is a treat, a startling sight for anyone who has only ever seen these much abused legumes in their dull grey coats before, and the mild flavour is here made even sweeter by salty ham and the fragrance of fresh mint, able to convert non-believers to the deliciousness of these little jewels. Truth be told the idea came from a Spanish dish that uses broad beans and Ibérico or Serrano ham to wonderful effect, and all I've done is nudge it to more northern climes to fit with what is seasonal. If you like, you can swap the ham for a soft, zingy goat's cheese, the broad beans for peas (which make a lovely supplement to the dish if you don't have enough broad beans), the cider vinegar for the sherry version, and the mint for some fresh basil. We've particularly enjoyed the beans, ham and mint version piled on top of a slice of toasted country bread that has been slathered thickly with soft goat's cheese or cream cheese, the whole scattered with a few finely sliced spring onions. Like I said, simple but, and this is the important bit, delicious if I do say so myself.
Broad beans with ham hock and mint
(serves 2 as a supper dish, 4 as a starter or side)
- 150g/4½oz broad beans, podded (podded weight)
- 60g/2½ oz cooked and shredded ham hock (swap the hock for anything you prefer in the ham department gammon, York, Wiltshire, even Parma or Spanish jamón, all chopped, shredded or torn as you wish)
- 2 spring onions (entirely optional)
- A good glug of cold pressed British rapeseed oil or extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp cider vinegar (use more if you love the appley tang – use other vinegars if you prefer)
- Small bunch of mint leaves, finely chopped or rolled up and sliced into very thin strips (chiffonade)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Bring a small pan of water to a boil and drop in the podded broad beans, for just a couple of minutes, until tender. Drain them well and drop into ice cold water so that they stop cooking instantly. Once they are cool enough to handle, start slipping the emerald green gems from inside their grey skins – it's incredibly easy, just use your nails to pinch a hole in the membrane, give them a gentle squeeze, and they will pop out. It is quite soothing, a feast for the eyes and removes the grey skin that is usually the obstacle to people enjoying broad beans!
2. In a bowl, gently stir together the cooked broad beans and ham hock, and spring onions if you are using them, until everything is evenly mixed.
3. Pour over the oil you've chosen and the cider vinegar (it's worth using the best ones you have here, but don't worry unduly). Taste and then season with salt and pepper if you think it needs either, bearing in mind that the ham might be quite salty already.
4. At the last minute before serving stir in the chopped mint leaves, mixing gently but well. Serve it with some crusty bread, or perhaps some steamed or boiled new potatoes. My old love Jersey Royals are still available, I think. Just sayin'.
Just as an aside, if you can't get fresh broad beans then thawed frozen broad beans work surprisingly well here. No need to blanche them as you do in the recipe as they pop out of their skins very easily once defrosted. Like frozen peas they are very good.
Summery and fresh, this dish is a lovely foil for a bright, lively English white like The Society's English White 2019 or Three Choirs Silver Jubilee Gloucestershire 2019, or the classy, vibrant, elderflower-tinged Camel Valley Bacchus, Cornwall 2019. From France, consider the light touch but mouthwatering fruit of The Society's Côtes de Gascogne 2019, or the fragrant Duo Des Mers Sauvignon-Viognier, Vin de France 2019 which will do sterling service, as will the grapy zing of Saleta Moscatel-Sauvignon Blanc 2019 from Spain.
A rosé like the refreshing Coteaux du Giennois Rosé, Domaine de Villargeau 2019, the pretty Muga Rosado, Rioja 2019, or even the fruity refined bubbles of The Society's Saumur Rosé Brut NV, will work with the ham without swamping the beans.
Reds need a lightness of touch, perhaps even to be served cool, so something like the juicy, exuberant Gamay, Jacques Dépagneux, Vin de France 2019, the light but very fruity Cantoiseau Rouge, Vin de France 2019 or the cherryish Valpolicella Valpantena, Torre del Falasco 2019 will do the trick nicely.
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