Mrs Bailey’s Broad Beans
(yes, certainly you may call them fava beans, but Mrs Bailey never would)
Like any proud Martian of English stock, Mrs Bailey was raised with a thorough knowledge of broad beans and how they were to be prepared and eaten. Throughout her childhood, and on into her life of service in great kitchens across the province, they did in all honesty never find much favour with her.
But then she had the kitchens of the Crater School under her command, and of course in the early days she cooked her broad beans the way she knew to do so; but one of her kitchenmaids was of Greek extraction and another was Turkish, and they made common cause one day. Steeling each other to the task, they approached their fearsome tyrant and offered to show her how they prepared broad beans in their own home countries.
To her own eternal credit, Mrs B was ever willing to listen, even to underlings. She listened, she watched, she tasted. And ever since that momentous day, no Crater School girl has been obliged to eat the grey leathery outer coating of the bean, for no country apart from England does that. Instead, broad beans are podded and blanched and then shelled, and only the jewelled green interior bean makes its way to Mrts Bailey’s tables, in any of a dozen delicious preparations.
This is the way:
Take a couple of pounds of fresh broad bean pods. Snap off the stem end and rip the pod open down the seam. Use your thumb to slide the beans out into a saucepan. Discard the pod (to the compost heap, not the garbage!) and repeat, till all the beans are podded.
Cover them with water, and set them on a vigorous flame. Bring to the boil, and simmer for one minute.
Drain, and leave to cool for five or ten minutes. Don’t leave them to get cold; you want them still warm and wet, for the next stage.
Using your thumbnail, tear open the thick skin of the bean at the thick end, and squeeze out the bright green bean within. Again, skins go to the compost. Repeat, until done.
To serve, you can simply sizzle the beans for a couple of minutes in butter, salt and pepper; or add garlic to taste; or ginger is excellent. Or you can include them in a dish of jewelled rice (watch out for Mrs Bailey’s recipe to come) or include them in samosas or hand pies of a different nature, or serve in salads with asparagus and peas and the hard cheese of your choice, or mash with ricotta to top toasts, or toss into any noodle dish, or…
[For the record, anyone whose mind is turning towards liver and a nice Chianti, that’s all very well, but be aware that the actual text of the book has no truck with such a combination; Lecter’s original wine choice is a big Amarone, which would work far better. They changed it for the film after learning that some people thought “amarone” was a vegetable. And furthermore, did you know that Lecter was actually being a lot more clever than the mere taunt might seem? He could have been effectively treated with MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors, my internets assure me), but three things you cannot take in conjunction with those are liver, beans and wine. Which of course Lecter would have known, so he’s seizing the opportunity very subtly to say he’s off his meds.]
You can find more of Mrs Bailey’s recipes here: