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.
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
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.