beans braised in milk

ah, the start of a new month! (i’m not getting into what this is the end of just yet…) and as has been the tradition since the spring, i’m trying to make better use of my cookbooks and posting a recipe from one of them over the first weekend of each month. this weekend i made a recipe from the river cafe cookbook: green, which i’d been eyeing since june. had i made it in june, i would have had the fresh fava beans that the recipe calls for. being the early days of september, i’m seeing more romano or cranberry beans at the market, and used those. but the intended mature favas should still be around, so you and i should still try to find them and make the recipe with those beans too. whichever you use, i’ll be by your place with the bread and a buttery white wine. say 3ish? …hmm? oh! the recipe. yes…

believe it or not, i didn’t inhale the entire cooked pot of beans in one sitting! but i did attack the refrigerated leftovers a long 5 hours later, and they were even better then. they did that hanging-around-mingling-with-the-juices/flavour-deepening thing that curries and a batch of chili will do (i also threw the remaining grated lemon zest on top before packing them away), so i’m thinking of making these ahead of time and heating them very slowly in a pan before serving next time. you might want to consider that before i come over too.

sage leaves, shelled romano/cranberry beans, fresh garlic

i used a whole, small but very fragrant head of spring garlic, as instructed but if you’re hesitant to part with yours (they can be hard to come by), of course use regular garlic. and make sure you “test for seasoning” as noted, because if you’re using maldon salt as i did, you may need more than you think. those big flakes are deceptive when salt usually sits compact and intense in your cupped palm. again, substitute your best salt if maldon isn’t within reach.

one other tip: the lovely ladies behind this recipe wisely suggest using a heavy-bottomed pan for this braise, which is great to avoid burning or sticking at the bottom, but remember that a good one will really really hold the heat. and if you’ve ever heated milk on the stove, you know that it gets bubbly and overflows if you don’t watch it. and even if you know it, you might accidentally let that happen every time, like i do. i ended up cooking these for half the time with the lid off, even with the heat turned down really low, to keep the liquid at a low simmer. so plan to be in the kitchen for the duration, it will be well worth your time.

broad beans braised in milk (fave fresche brasate al latte)
from the river cafe cookbook: green

*ys note: i couldn’t find fava beans and used romano/cranberry beans with great success.

for 6

3kg broad beans* (podded weight 1.5 kg)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole head spring garlic, divided into cloves, peeled
10 sage leaves, finely sliced
maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper
150 ml milk
6 slices of sourdough bread
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
extra virgin olive oil

gently heat the olive oil in a medium, thick-bottomed saucepan with a lid. add the broad beans and garlic (apart from 1 clove, save it for the bruschetta), and slowly cook together for 10-15 minutes or until they become soft. add the sage, salt and pepper, and carry on cooking just to allow the sage flavour to penetrate the beans. pour in the milk, cover the pan and simmer very gently for 20 minutes, or until the beans have absorbed most of the milk. test for seasoning.

preheat the grill. toast the bread on both sides, then rub lightly on one side only with the reserved garlic clove. spoon the broad beans and some of their juices over each bruschetta. scatter over the lemon zest, and drizzle over each a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil.