Broad bean bessara on pumpernickel

Broad bean bessara on pumpernickel

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It's funny how you can come to perceive an ingredient or recipe as closely connected to a certain city or heritage, only to realise its origins are something totally different. Broad beans for me are so entwined with my Mum's favourite foods and our Polish family that in my head, they'd practically become a national icon. Certainly Poland seems to know how to treat the humble broad or fava bean to get a little more flavour from it than anything I've come across in the UK. When we were younger my Mum would put broad beans in our soup bowls as a surprise for getting to the bottom, something that tastes amazing paired with barszcz. When I went to Krakow last year, bowls of steaming broad beans were set on the table at lunchtime while the rest of the food was prepared, with the shells discarded for just the soft inner bean which was eaten as a snack.

But it turns out it's not just Poland that's on to the mighty fava. In Peru, broad beans are roasted (which sounds so good), in Ethiopia they are eaten during the evening for storytelling, in Greece they are cooked with artichokes, and in Portugal they are an integral part of the traditional Christmas cake, bolo-rei. Twenty minutes looking in to how the rest of the world uses broad beans has left me with a page-long list for more broad bean recipes! 

However, the first one I got to try was a pseudo bessara, the Moroccan equivalent of hummus, made with broad beans instead of chickpeas. The traditional recipe is much thinner than the one I made, as it uses vegetable stock, and can be turned into a soup by just adding more of the stock and less oil. It's also quite similar in flavour to Egypt's take on broad beans: ful medames, a staple meal of mashed beans with garlic, parsley, lemon juice and cumin. I'm basically a converted broad bean fanatic.

In the spirit of adding a northern European take on the bessara, I made this recipe with sliced radishes which add a gorgeous crunch and clean peppery taste to the beans, and to be eaten with toasted pumpernickel bread, which is a great contrast in texture from the mix. 

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Makes enough for four


400g prepared broad beans (soaked and shelled if you're not buying tinned)

400g prepared chickpeas

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

Handful of coriander, chopped down small

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp paprika

Juice of 1 lemon

3 tbsp olive oil

100ml water

Salt and pepper to taste

Handful of radishes, cut in to thin slices

Pumpernickel bread

Avocados (optional)

Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix. Using a hand blender or food mixer, blend all the ingredients together before adding a little more salt, pepper or oil to taste.

Add the sliced radishes and spread on toasted pumpernickel bread with a little more lemon juice for serving- this is perfect with avocado and coffee for breakfast too.

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