I grew up in a tiny farmhouse in the Welsh hills and one of my strongest memories as a child is sitting at the wooden table in the kitchen with my mum and dad popping broad beans out of their soft white furry pods. But I really didn’t like the taste of broad beans – known here in Italy as fava beans – and regularly pushed them to one side on my plate because I found them too bitter. Maybe it was because the beans had grown too big, maybe it was because my taste buds were not quite there yet – I also hated garlic and olives. Either way I decided to give them another chance this week. Like many vegetables, the key is not to boil or steam fava beans but roast them in the oven with a little olive oil. This dish with new potatoes, courgettes, baked feta, garlic, lemon, fresh herbs and a slight chilli kick brings out the sweetness of the beans and is one of my new favourite things to eat!
Approx. 600g unshelled fava beans (150g fresh beans)
750g new potatoes
200g block of feta cheese
2 courgettes which I forgot to put in the picture, sorry!
2 garlic cloves, sliced not crushed
A handful of thyme
A handful of fresh mint
A handful of fresh parsley
A lemon (zest and juice)
Chilli flakes (optional)
Start by shelling the beans. I ended up with around a quarter of the weight of the pods in actual beans so make sure you buy enough! Cut the courgettes into sticks and zest the lemon.
Put the chopped courgettes in a baking dish with the feta and sprigs of thyme. Drizzle generously with olive oil and season well. I sprinkled a pinch of chilli flakes over the top for an extra layer of flavour. Chills works incredibly well with garlic, lemon and mint but you can leave it out if you prefer.
Chop the potatoes into bite sized chunks and place them in a separate baking tray with the sliced garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and mix well.
Place both trays in a hot oven (approx. 200C). After 20 minutes remove both trays. Toss the potatoes and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. Stir the fava beans into the courgette and feta tray and return to the oven.
After 10 minutes remove the tray from the oven and gently mix everything together. When the potatoes are slightly brown and crispy you can remove them from the oven and stir them in.
Add the chopped mint and parsley and enough of the lemon juice to make the flavours sing. Then turn into a bowl and serve, ideally with a glass of crisp white wine to cut through the richness of the creamy cheese.