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Broad bean and mozzarella toasts

Broad bean and mozzarella toasts

I’m not one to pick favourites, but if I had to, broad beans would definitely be on my list. Their delicate, fresh green flavour is the epitome of summer to me. They have a wonderful affinity with the fresh lemon zest, fragrant basil and rich creamy buffalo mozzarella in this recipe.

Preparing broad beans is a labour of love. I always, always double-pod mine. For both flavour and aesthetic reasons, I like the bright green inner bean to be completely disrobed. Broad beans lead such a cosseted life,  enveloped in the thick, soft wadding that forms their pod; the vegetable equivalent of a cashmere blanket. The beans inside have a tough white skin which also needs to be removed. I have read many times that if you catch the beans when they are young enough, this white skin is edible, but I’ve never found it to be anything other than slightly bitter and so I remove it as a matter of course.

Once the beans are out of their fluffy pods, the easiest way to remove their skins is to cook them briefly in boiling water, just for a couple of minutes. This softens the skin so that you can slip it off. I use the tip of my thumbnail to split the skin at one end of the bean, then squeeze gently so the bright green bean pops out.

All of this preparation means that the actual edible part of a broad bean pod is pretty small. 500g of broad bean pods will barely even yield 100g when double podded, so always be sure to buy far more than you think.

To make the broad bean mix, put your lovingly podded beans into a food processor and blitz briefly, just to break them up. Then add half a crushed clove of garlic, the zest of half a lemon and a good spritz of juice, 2 tbsp crème fraiche, 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese, a scant handful of basil and a good grind of black pepper. Blend again. Whilst the motor is running dribble in some good, flavoursome olive oil until you have the desired consistency – 2-4 tablespoons should do it. You want a chunky spread, thick enough to hold its shape. Taste and adjust the flavourings to taste. You might want an extra squeeze of lemon or a bit more parmesan.

Lightly toast some slices of baguette or other robust bread of your choosing. Generously dollop on the broad bean mix and top with a chunk of buffalo mozzarella. Dribble over a little extra olive oil and a scattering of basil to finish.

Serves 2 as a light lunch or supper.

Shopping list: 500g broad beans in their pods, 2 tbsp crème fraiche, zest and juice of 1 lemon, basil, olive oil, garlic, parmesan, 1 ball of buffalo mozzarella, baguette.

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