Winter Fava Bean and Fennel Salad

On Tuesday I finally had a long-planned lunch date with the lovely Sabrina Ghayour in  Brixton Village. Initially conceived as an outing for an Honest Burger (really good burgers are hard to come by in London), it morphed into a four-hour movable feast (hashtag: #Brixtonfoodcrawl). After a tasty lamb samosa at Elephant and a burger so blessedly rare it was practically mooing, somewhere in between sourdough donuts at Wild Caper and mussels at Etta’s Seafood Kitchen (a chilled out Caribbean café a far cry from the Tom Douglas eatery of the same name in Seattle), what did I do? I shopped of course. For food, naturally. The result: a two-kilo sack of barley (look for the barley recipes here, folks, because they’re coming), and (among other purchases) two giant bunches of fresh parsley and mint.

Now, three days ago I persuaded myself I was made of stern enough stuff to participate in a challenge called #10week. The rules? Live off £10 for a week (transport not included). Grim. I lasted all of about 12 hours before blowing through my entire tenner at the DIY store (it’s HARD to economize when you’ve just moved), but while the dream still lived undimmed, I rummaged through my cupboards and pulled out a bag of dried fava beans I’d bought for a Moroccan dinner last summer. Fava beans (broad beans if you’re British) are one of my favourite foods in the world, and in the springtime, when young fava beans start appearing in markets in their furry green pods, I buy them by the sackful and add them to everything. Mature dried fava beans are quite a different beastie; they’re big and starchy and require a fair amount of advance planning and cooking.

This salad is essentially a winter version of a salad I love to make in the summertime. Cooked dry favas are substituted for steamed tender green favas, giving the salad heft and adding a nice meaty counterpoint to fresh crunchy fennel, bright herbs, and aromatic preserved lemon. Blanched walnuts add texture and a bit of sweetness, and the whole thing is rounded out by pink peppercorns and a touch of sumac. It’s a really nice dish, and the longer it sits, the more the flavours develop. Note that if you want to try this recipe, unless you’re using tinned fava beans, you will need to plan two days in advance as dried fava beans still in their skins require 48 hours of soaking prior to cooking.

Ingredients:

One and a half cups (about 200 grams) dried fava beans or three to four cups (about 400-450 grams) tinned fava beans

2 bay leaves

½ cup (a double handful) chopped fresh parsley leaves

½ cup (a double handful) chopped fresh mint leaves

1 whole fresh fennel bulb, cleaned, cored (if necessary) and finely chopped

100 grams chopped blanched walnuts (To blanch walnuts, simply cover raw walnuts with a couple of inches of water in a saucepan, bring to a rolling boil for about two minutes, drain, and rinse with cold water.)

2-3 tablespoons of finely chopped preserved lemon rind (Moroccan preserved lemons in brine are available in specialty stores. Halve the lemons, scoop out the pulp, and then chop the soft rind.)

Juice of ½ fresh lemon

¼ cup (about 40-50 ml) extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pink peppercorns, coarsely pounded in a mortar and pestle

½ teaspoon sumac

Method:

If using dried fava beans, soak in plenty of water for 48 hours, changing water at least once. After the beans are soaked, you can (if you wish) slip the skins off prior to cooking. Rinse beans, transfer to a heavy-bottomed pot, cover with water and add the bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender (two to three hours), adding water if necessary, and skimming foam off top. Drain, and remove and discard bay leaves.

Cool beans to room temperature and then combine with remaining ingredients except pink peppercorns and sumac. Taste and adjust seasonings. Top with a light dusting of crushed pink peppercorns and sumac and serve.

Makes about six servings.

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9 thoughts on “Winter Fava Bean and Fennel Salad

  1. I like all of your seasonings in this. We get fresh favas in the spring and I confess I’ve never had them any way I liked. I’ll have to try them your way. I look forward to hearing what you eat on ten pounds a week.

    • Thanks very much — I love fava beans and I think their best qualities are emphasized by a mix of sharpness and tang and crunch. I gave up on the tenner challenge for this week but I intend to start over in February, once I return from a trip to the US. I’ll blog about it … especially since I won’t be going out much!

  2. cool, i love how this is essentially the same salad, but done with a hearty winter twist! i didnt know you had to soak them for 48 hours, wow, but well worth it from the looks of it!

  3. Lovely salad. I’ll give it a whirl.
    I lived in Brixton for 3 years, and have only recently returned to find the little derelict corner of the indoor market now tranformed into gourmet central. What a change! There used to be just Rosie there doing her thing. I sat with my sis in a cafe sipping an amazing coffee amongst a throng of fashionable sorts and a massive rasta came up and began ranting and waving his arms about, spitting venom towards ‘babylon’ and ‘the poisoned white man’. Most just stared deeply into their lattes. I do miss Brixton.
    Being skint. Im good at this at present. My girlfriend went to Panama recently for work and I decided that being the new year, I’d have some reflective time and basically become a hermit of sorts (I live in the middle of nowhere in Wales, so this state is actually very normal). I managed to live on a fiver (5 pounds) a week with no sense of abject suffering. There is an amazing organic veg farm just down the road, so I walked and got veggies and ate like a content sparrow. I didn’t feel too badly nourished. Cheap is possible, for hermits.
    Great blog, looking forward to reading more. Peace, Lee

    • What an utterly lovely comment. And a great story. I miss Brixton as it used to be, although I have to admit that eating my way through the Brixton Village was massively enjoyable. Soon I’m going to re-dedicate myself to tenner week. I think I can do it. It will not be cheerful, but it will be possible. As you say, “cheap is possible, for hermits.” Thanks so much for visiting and for subscribing.

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