Split broad beans with fried onions

Split broad beans with fried onions

Fave secche con cipolle saltate

By
From
Tuscany
Serves
4-6
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

We have to say a huge thank you to the Anonimo Toscano, the anonymous Tuscan chef who wrote his recipes down in a book in the 1300s. This extract is taken from his book:

‘Split broad [fava] beans, washed in hot water, set them to boil; and when they have boiled, wash them well a second time, and set them to boil in enough water to cover them and protect them from smoke. And when they are well cooked, stir them with a stick; then dilute them with cold water, or white wine instead, so that they are well made. Then make them into a pottage, and add oil, with fried onions; and serve it.’

For a nutritious and comforting side dish, do hunt down a packet of these dried and split broad beans. They were a staple diet in Tuscany’s poorer history (as you can see in the 14th century), and in ours too in the UK since the Iron Age. Although they are grown in the UK, most are shipped abroad. In my opinion they are well worth resurrecting in our dishes and are easy to buy in the UK from the wonderfully-named Hodmedod.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
250g dried split broad beans
seed oil, for shallow frying
1 medium white or red onion, peeled and finely sliced into half-moons
salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon best-quality extra-virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Pick over the beans to get rid of any stones or shells. Cover the beans with cold water in a medium saucepan and put over a high heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 40–50 minutes or until the beans can be easily squashed against the side of a pan with a wooden spoon. They will become softer the longer they cook. Add a little hot water during cooking if the beans start to look dry.
  2. Meanwhile, heat some seed oil in a high-sided frying pan and fry the onion until crisp. Lift the onion out of the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.
  3. Either let the beans boil to a pulp or pottage for a further 10–15 minutes, as the Anonymous Tuscan suggested, and mash with a potato masher, or eat them while they still have some bite but are cooked through. Season the beans to taste, and serve them topped with the fried onions and drizzled with the olive oil.
Tags:
Italy
Italian
Caldesi
Tuscany
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