Rachel Roddy recipes: As Roman marketplaces heave with bright green broad beans, hands can be seen busy with the ritual of peeling them to eat with pecorino romano. Try them with herby rice and new-season lamb chops
Like peeling roasted chestnuts, prising open shellfish, or simply flicking open a salted pistachio nut with your thumbnail, in Rome at this time of time peeling broad beans is part of a ritual one as important as the taste. Important too is the cutting, or rather hewing, of the cheese with a small spade-like enforce, tip of a knife, or the prongs of a fork, all of which create craggy parts that seem to taste entirely different to a smooth-edged slice. The peeled bean and part of cheese are thens feed together.
I first saw this ordinary ritual 12 years ago, soon after arriving in Rome. It was in a trattoria called Agustarello, a spare room of a place that lived up to my folklorish ideas about how a Roman trattoria should be: plain but welcoming, spouse in the kitchen attaining the simple traditional meat, formidable spouse out front, their kids arriving back from school stroppy and in search of pasta, bread in a basket. A group of men at a table near me were brought a plate of broad beans in their pods and a partly excavated quarry of craggy white cheese. They began podding and hewing, their arms intersecting in much the same way as their conversation, then eating beans with cheese, each in their own idiosyncratic behavior: the two together, beans first then cheese, cheese first then( doubled peeled) bean.
I hoped I might be brought the same thing, but wasnt , not least because I was already finishing my dinner. I looked for an explanation on a menu, but didnt were identified, and left before I really understood. In hour though, I learned this is a Roman spring ritual, delving thumbs into the velvet-lined pod then unzipping it in order to eat the new season broad beans with Romes favourite cheese black-wax encased, sheeps milk pecorino romano. The combining of bright green beans: small-scale, tender, sweet and tasting like pure chlorophyll and buttery wax, contrasting with the sharp, creamy cheese is a triumph.
It is not a habit confined to trattorie . When the air is filled with springtime and the market with great stacks of broad beans, cheerful and cheap as microchips, everyone does it whether at a trattoria or at home, in a park or realm. Fave e pecorino is a combining enjoyed for Easter breakfast with enriched bread and a salami studded with great nuggets of fat called coralina , for the barbecue on Easter Monday, then again on the first of May, when many brain into the countryside for a barbecue and the pecorino sweats under the midday sun. It is a ritual full of symbolism for Romans who consider fava beans harbingers of springtime a custom that reminds us that it isnt just what you feed, but how.
It is also a habit that travels happily to Dorset where my mothers live, for example, where local broad beans are a treat with sharp, local cheddar.
As the season progressions, broad beans, like people, age, their skin thicken, the sugar turning to starch so that tender tiddlywinks become thick buttons that need doubled peeling, their opaque coating popping off. For now, though, you can eat the whole bean.
In Rome, broad beans are part of another much-loved Roman dish called vignarola , a springtime vegetable stew of artichokes, peas, beans, lettuce and onion braised in lots of olive oil. They are also stewed with prosciutto, induced into a salad with thinly sliced fennel, or tossed with olive oil and piled on toast spread thickly with ricotta.
The idea for todays recipe came from Jessica Seatons delightful new book Gather, Cook, Feast. It was the page the book fell open on: rice loaded with herbs and broad beans, and the answer to the question what shall we feed tonight? You could use all sorts of herbs here. I utilized parsley and basil because it was what I had, but went out and bought some dill for a touching of fragrant aniseed, which isnt to everyone taste, but is a bit of an addition if it is. You could also use a handful of fennel fronds. Whatever herbs you use, use plenties and chop them finely they are ingredients not specks and add them while the rice is hot, so they disperse their aromatic aroma. I imagine butter is important. Like the olive oil, it dresses and brings everything together, but it also rounds and softens the edges butters them up if you like. You could just use olive oil. Jessica recommends fish as an accompaniment. I am suggesting lamb. In Rome, lamb is generally sold younger( the cutlets are smaller and bashed out) and cooked speedily, alla scottaditto , which means cooked in the style that burns your fingers hinting at how best to eat them, ritual being as important as taste.
Rice with broad beans, herbs and lamb chops
If you dont eat lamb, supplant with slices of salty cheese or conjure some cooked chickpeas through the rice.
1. 2 kg broad beans in their pods, or 400 g frozen ones, defrosted
A small-scale bunch of flat-leaf parsley
A small-scale bunch of basil
A small-scale bunch of dill
450g long grain white rice
5 spring onions, finely chopped
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper
4 large-scale, or 8 small-scale lamb chops
1 Pod the broad beans. Savor one: at this time of time they should be tender enough to eat without doubled peeling its your option. If you decide to, embrace the beans with boiling water for a minute, drain, then freshen in cold water, at which point the opaque skins should pop off if you squeeze. If “youre not” doubled peeling, boil the beans in salted water for 3 minutes or until tender, drain and keep warm.
2 Pull the herb leaves from the roots. Chop the foliages finely.
3 Rinse the rice twice, then cook in plenty of boil, well-salted water until tender but al dente. Drain and leave to steam dry in a colander for five minutes.
4 In a large frying pan, over a medium-low hot, fry the spring onions until soft. Meanwhile, cook the lamb chops on a griddle pan or under the grill, the behavior you like them.
5 Add the rice, broad beans, salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice and the herbs to the spring onions, then stir until everything is well combined and glistening. Turn on to a very warm serving platter.
6 Once cooked, pile the lamb on top of the rice along with wedges of lemon.
Rachel Roddy is an award-winning meat writer based in Rome and the author of Five Quarterss: Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome( Saltyard 😉 @racheleats