Local tapas – Broad bean purée

One of my favourite restaurants is my local tapas place, El Parador.  They have a fantastic and extensive menu of the tastiest tapas I’ve ever eaten, better than anything I ate in Spain to be honest! Despite the length of the menu everything comes out of the kitchen tasting incredibly fresh. I tend to pick a different vegetable dish every time I go, along with my favourite seafood dishes, perhaps something from the specials menu and a plate of padron peppers. I’m never disappointed.

On my last visit I came away with their cookbook, Tapas, by owners Carlos Horrillo and Patrick Morcas. I decided I would make one of my favourite starters from the restaurant, Puré de Habas Verdes, or puréed broad beans with pan-fried garlic, rosemary and olive oil.

The recipe calls for garlic, broad beans, and rosemary, and as luck would have it I am growing all three on my plot. The broad beans were ripe for picking – a little late this year but they made it eventually! I let my plants grow tall, to well over a metre, and didn’t pinch the tops out. Occasionally a few blackfly would appear on the tops and then the ladybird army would move in and take them out (in fact, see my blog header picture for illustration).

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I companion planted nasturtiums as they are meant to distract blackfly from the broad beans (and also for their tasty leaves and flowers), but perhaps the ladybirds are super efficient as the aphids have left the nasturtiums alone.

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The rosemary used to live on my balcony, but it was taking over so it was the first thing I planted on my plot way back in March. I feel slightly guilty as it used to flower for several months of the year on the balcony and provide a favourite food for any intrepid bees managing to make their way up to the fifth floor.

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It is thriving on the plot though. My garlic is about to flower so I decided to leave it in the ground and use some I had in the kitchen instead.

Finally, I got home from the pub on Friday night, refreshed my wheat sourdough, and by Saturday afternoon I had fresh pain de campagne:

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Made with British organic flour (decanted into containers but it was probably from Dove’s or Bacheldre).

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I really don’t think it gets much more local than that! Recipe from my local restaurant, home-grown ingredients, home-made bread.

The folks at El Parador have kindly given me permission to share the recipe.

Puré de Habas Verdes

Makes 1 litre (I halved the recipe to match my broad bean harvest)

olive oil
8 garlic cloves
Maldon sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
5 sprigs fresh rosemary (or 1 heaped tablespoon dried rosemary)
500g broad beans (fresh, frozen or tinned – we use frozen, just make sure you defrost them), husks removed (right now, it’s broad bean season, so use fresh! But frozen broad beans are great quality as they are flash frozen, so use them at any other time of the year)

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Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan on a medium heat. Peel the garlic cloves and crush them with the flat side of a broad blade knife or the bottom of a tablespoon. Add them to the pan with a pinch of salt and pepper and stir them around in the hot oil. Turn the heat right down and sauté very gently for 15-20 minutes, or until soft and pale golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a dish to one side.

Return the pan to a low heat, drop in the sprigs of rosemary and season with a further pinch of salt and pepper. Stir the rosemary around in the pan and fry gently until the leaves begin to change colour – about 5-7 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in the dish with the garlic. Take the pan off the heat and allow the infused oil to cool down.

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When the oil is lukewarm, pour it into your food processor and drop in the garlic, rosemary, and broad beans. Set the processor off at a slow speed and blend to a thick, smooth paste. If it is too thick, add a bit more olive oil. Season to taste. Once done, spoon into a serving bowl and serve immediately, or heat up in a low oven and serve lukewarm.

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It tasted just like it does in the restaurant – result!

I followed that up with another recipe from the book, Calamares Adobados a la Plancha (Chargrilled squid with garlic, chilli and coriander), make with British squid and balcony coriander.

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Also delicious. I can really recommend going to El Parador if you are in London, and buying the cookbook whether you live here or not! The authors have a really friendly style of writing with lots of helpful tips. I’m sure I will get a lot of use out of my copy even though I can go to the restaurant any time I like.

July harvest

As we all know, the weather’s been dreadful, but I’ve been slowly harvesting a few things from my little plot.  While my herbs have all rotted in the ground and my tomatoes are only just flowering, I’ve been harvesting a lot of baby salad leaves.  There are also a lot of baby nettle leaves in my salad bed, so I’m harvesting with care!

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Current state of the plot.  The borage got so big I had to pull one plant out.  There’s still enough left for the bees, who are my constant visitors on the plot.  Still trying to convince other plotholders that bees are good, especially if they want tomatoes this year.

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Mackerel with sorrel sauce, new potatoes and baby leaf salad.

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A basket of produce I put together very quickly to go on show at a local Family Fun Day.
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My spring onions were finally ready for picking around midsummer.  I swear they had more flavour than supermarket spring onions.  Here they are on top of some black pepper tofu.

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Courgette flowers, stuffed with ricotta, basil and mint and served on more home grown salad.

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Salad is one thing I’ve got a lot of.  The snails and slugs seem to be leaving it alone, thank goodness.  I’m growing so many different leaves – red mustard, green mustard, mizuna, rocket, cos lettuce, red lettuce, lamb’s lettuce, land cress, orache, perilla, and then there’s nasturtium leaves and flowers, and borage flowers (they taste like cucumber), and some tiny radishes (I gave up on them getting any bigger before going woody).  Dressed simply with good olive oil, lemon juice and salt.