Broad Bean Purée

broad beans
This is essentially a very simple dish, but of course there are a host of variations which enable it to be tweaked depending on whether it is to be served as part of a mezze or tapas or as a vegetable accompaniment to meat of fish.
Dried broad beans are a feature of Middle Eastern and North African cuisine and are traditionally flavoured with cumin or oregano. Fresh or frozen broad beans can be substituted, but the larger more mealy beans work best.

Berber Broad Bean Purée (Byssara)

  • 280g split dried broad beans or skinned fresh beans
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • Sea salt
  • ½ lemon
  1. If using dried beans soak for 24 hours and then simmer in 1.5 litres of water for an hour. Add the garlic and 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook until they form a thick soft mush. Cool.
  2. If using fresh beans cook until soft, drain and add 2 tablespoons olive oil, enough water to cover the base of the pan and the garlic crushed. Heat gently until the beans begin to form a paste, you may need to add some extra water.
  3. Grind the cumin seeds with a teaspoon of coarse sea salt and add half to the bean mixture
  4. Put the bean mixture in a food processor or blender and slowly pour in the remaining olive oil. Process until a thick, smooth paste is formed. It may be necessary to add some extra warm water to create a smooth purée of the right consistency.
  5. Adjust the seasoning by adding lemon juice and salt.
  6. Decorate with the remaining cumin.
  7. Serve with flat breads, lemon wedges, black olives

The secret of this dish is getting the consistency and balance of flavours right. The cooking of the beans is crucial, too much water and you will end up with soup and too little and the bean mixture will burn.

Fresh Broad Bean Purée with Herbs

  • 500g broad beans (podded weight)
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 50ml  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 25ml  water
  • Finely chopped mint or marjoram
  1. Cook the broad beans for about three minutes in boiling water. Drain and rinse under cold water. Slip off their skins.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large frying-pan and sauté the onion until it is soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook for a further three minutes. Add the skinned beans and warm through for about three minutes. Season.
  3. Tip the contents of the pan into a food processor and add the lemon juice and olive oil, then the water. Pulse to a rough purée.
  4. Add chopped mint or marjoram. Taste for seasoning and if necessary add more lemon or olive oil.

The choice of herbs depends on the meat or fish that is to accompany the purée. You can use dill or rosemary or add chilli, a twist of nutmeg or even a little cream.

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