Regular readers of this blog will know that I have been moaning rather regularly about the weather of late. I mean, it’s late July already and it feels as if we are still waiting for summer to get underway! It’s all too depressing. In fact, the only warm days I remember recently were the Henley Regatta weekend earlier this month and, miraculously, last Friday and Saturday. It’s not often weekends and good weather coincide…
I was planning on Nick and I spending some time trying to wrest order from the chaos that is our home and maybe do something nice for dinner… and then on Friday he announced that he was in fact off to a touch rugby tournament all day on Saturday. Harumph. OK, so I could have soldiered on like a martyr, doing all the chores while he kicked odd-shaped balls around, but that simply would not be my style ;-) Instead, I threw open the garden door, pottered around with my plants a bit and then spread the picnic rug on the grass and lay down with my book (the rather wonderful Hearts in Atlantis – Stephen King at his most poignant and least gory best). Utter contentment. Lunch was a hastily thrown-together tuna salad, also enjoyed al fresco as I could not tear myself away from my garden.
As the sun sank and the weather grew cooler I headed inside and heard from Nick that he was probably eating with the touch rugby boys, so I was free to make what I wanted for dinner. It took about 3 seconds of deliberation to decide that this would definitely feature the bag of broad beans in the fridge! Aaaah, broad beans. Can there be a vegetable that I’ve fallen more in love with over the past couple of years? So seasonal and so perfectly packaged by nature and so damn delicious. There are few things I loke more than sitting ou the back step looking out over the garden, glass of wine by my side, and podding broad beans on a summer evening. Yes, it’s time consuming but so worth it.
Usually I would make something along the lines of the Spanish dish of broad beans and jamon Iberico drizzled with olive oil, but somehow tonight seemed the right time for something girly and different – after all, how often do I get to enjoy an evening totally free of TV, cooking girly food, sipping girly cocktails and listening to my decidedly un-girly new favourite CDs (Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible and My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade)? So I settled on canapes and cocktails for dinner. You only live once.
For the crostini, I decided on a broad bean spread, laced with a little chunk of leftover feta cheese in the fridge and garnished with slivers of pecorino. And for the cocktails, I was in a quandry. On the one hand, I was keen to celebrate summer the traditional English way with a Pimms. But then again, I had glugged down litres of the stuff at the Henley Regatta the previous week and maybe it was time for a change. So instead I plumped for another of my summer favourites: my version of the kir royale. A proper kir royale consists of creme de cassis and champagne, but my version contains cava and cherry liqueur (don’t bother with any sort of expensive bubbly unless you have money to burn and people to seriously impress). As an added twist, I placed half a fresh cherry, liberally soaked in cherry liqueur, in the bottom of the flute. Oh yes. The cherry drifts gently up and down in the glass all night, trailing a comet’s tail of bubbles behind it. Too lovely!
As for the crostini, they were delicious with a fresh, summery taste. I made the broad bean paste quite coarse with chunks of whole bean still apparent, but if you wanted a smoother paste you could use a food procssor. You could then easily use it as a dip. The feta was good for binding the mix together but has quite a strong taste of its own. Next time I might consider replacing it with finely grated pecorino or parmesan, and garnishing with a crisp of jamon Iberico. I also thought the toasted bread crostini were a bit too… bready. Possibly toasted squares of pita bread might work better? I see some happy experimentation coming up, for as long as the broad bean season lasts!
Ingredients (lots of guesswork here – be creative till it tastes right to you!)
8-10 slices of baguette, sliced diagonally in thin slices
500g unshelled broad beans (fava beans)
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
about 30g feta cheese
1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste
Pecorino or parmesan shavings to garnish
Slice your baguette into thin slices (1cm), lay the slices on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Toast under a medium grill, turning once, until browned.
Pod the beans and boil in water for about 5 minutes. Cool them with cold water, then peel the greyish outer skin from each bean to reveal the bright green beans inside.
Crush the beans with a potato masher for a rustic texture or puree in a food processor if you want a smooth paste. Add the crumbled feta cheese, garlic, olive oil and a splash of lemon juice and mash some more. (I also reserved a couple of the teensiest beans for garnishing.) Add black pepper and salt to taste.
Spoon the bean mixture onto the toasted bread slices and top each with a shaving of pecorino or parmesan cheese and a teensy broad bean. If you have not added much salt yet and you thing the paste is too bland, sprinkle with fleur de sel before serving.
Serve with cocktails!
PAUPER’S “KIR ROYALE”
Cava or prosecco
Half a fresh cherry per glass
Place a half cherry in the bottom of each champagne flute. Pour a tot of cherry liqueur over it and leave to stand for 10 minutes or so (longer if practical). Top up each glass with bubbly and serve immediately.