The Ever-Festive Fava

A few days ago, I called home to have my fiance Andrew start cooking a pot of fava beans–or broad beans, as they’re sometimes called–I’d been wanting to cook for ages, but hadn’t gotten around to.  I assumed they’d take a while so I wanted to get a head start.  I adore fava beans but until this point had never attempted making them myself.  Some months ago, we picked up a bag at Surfas, and the instructions seemed easy enough–what could go wrong?

It didn’t go wrong entirely, but clearly something just wasn’t right.  After doing a bit of research online I discovered that the tough outer skin was to be removed after soaking.  This would have been much easier to do after a leisurely soak rather than after three hours of cooking; the instructions on the bag just said to cook them until soft.  This was also where I found out they would take about three hours to cook, not the one hour I was anticipating.

We went on to enjoy our broiled salmon sans side of fava beans, but what to do with them?  On the same webpage I’d consulted, I discovered a recipe for a pate that sounded like they perfect way to deal with the soft nutty buggers–and the perfect way for me to introduce myself to our immersion blender.

While not exactly something pickled, after having spent the afternoon peeling the unpleasant skins off their backs, I felt it deserved a blog post.  And I threw in some spices traditionally used in pickling just for good measure (and flavor, of course).

You’ll need to do this in a few stages since the blades can only handle so much at a time.  I started off with just olive oil as I blended, but realized the texture was still a bit dry and stiff.  Andrew suggested water; about a teaspoon added to each batch as you puree should give you the right consistency.  Next I clipped some fresh rosemary from the garden and chopped it up finely.  I used my trusty garlic press to mix in two medium-sized cloves and went to the spice rack for celery seed and ground coriander (and a last minute surprise addition of some cardamom).  Of course I was generous with the salt and pepper, not just to bring out the flavors but also because I just can’t stop using our new grinders.  We now have a handsome pair of Peugeot salt and pepper mills, from our friends at Sur la Table, and they’re as fun to use as they are pleasing to the eyes.  They’re not cheap, but the grinding mechanism comes with a lifetime guarantee.  Really.  Till death do you part.

Tomorrow we’ll be celebrating Christmas as many Jews do, with dinner and a movie.  “Traditionally” it’s Chinese, but as I’ve done for many years, I’ll be savoring every last bite at the home my good friend and fabulous cook Wendy.  As our party has grown to nine, we were asked to bring an appetizer and I think a fava bean pate will surely amuse our bouches.

Fava Bean Pate
1 bag dried fava beans*
Olive oil
Fresh rosemary
2 medium cloves garlic
Celery seed
Fresh ground salt and pepper
Cardamom (optional)

Ignoring the instructions on your bag of fava beans, soak for about an hour, softening the skins enough to peel.  Cook for up to three hours, or until very soft.  Using an immersion blender or food processor, puree until smooth, adding olive oil and water as needed to maintain moisture and give it a spreadable texture.  If you’re able to puree the whole batch at once, add the garlic then; otherwise, mince using a press or however you like it.  Chop up 5-6 sprigs fresh rosemary very finely and mix in.  Add about a tablespoon each celery seed and coriander, or to taste.  And be generous with the salt and pepper.  The cardamom gives it just a hint of sweetness; add a dash or two if you so desire and see if your guests can identify the “secret” ingredient.

*Ours was a pound, which is plenty, unless you’re making pate for fifty.

photos by Andrew Wilder

15 Comments to “The Ever-Festive Fava”

  1. Michfie 26 February 2012 at 1:28 am #

    Hi, your “how not to cook fava beans” has been enormously useful! There’s not a lot of info about how to cook these dried beans.

    I’ve got some beans soaking now in preparation for this dish, can you just advise if you used fresh coriander or ground coriander?


    • Matty 27 February 2012 at 5:06 pm #

      Thanks for the comment and hope you enjoy the fava beans. I did use ground coriander.

  2. Golden 2 March 2012 at 9:06 pm #

    I agree, have been looking for instructions about dried beans (fava beans) since last night. I generally knew that soaking would be better, but we all like to do things quicker if we can, I have soaked the beans, and actually just chipped the end off each bean, as my husband came in and started doing, his Mum is from Sicily and they always chipped the ends before soaking, but doing after the soaking, I think would be a lot easier. I was not sure how long to boil the beans for, I am boiling right now, then I am going to make a soupy dish with the beans still in their shells, then you suck them out as you are eating them, apparently, the flovours go into the beans when the shell is split only. Maybe boil for 1 hour, then test them? Thank you for your help!

    • Matty 3 March 2012 at 6:22 pm #

      My pleasure and thanks for the comment. Hope it turned out well!

  3. jane 18 April 2012 at 7:35 am #

    Wow, I’m glad I read this. I soaked mine for 24 hours, as that’s what I have to do with all beans since I live at very high altitude. I vaguely remembered having read something about peeling so came to take a look online and found your post. Great info. Now I am tempted to try peeling for some and the “sucking out the bean” as another poster mentioned. Thanks for the info!

  4. Bill 14 October 2012 at 7:09 am #

    Just started a whole grain plant based diet yesterday and bought some dried fava beans from our local health food store. Well I soaked them over night and started to boil them without the desired results. After reading your suggestions I will try your method next time. By the way, my wife is Polish and a snack they eat when fave beans are fresh is simply boiling them in salt water for 20 minutes and then just popping them out of there shells straight into your mouth. I just don’t know where to get fresh faves here in the states!

    • Matty 18 October 2012 at 1:50 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, Bill. Keep us posted on the diet and your adventures with favas!

    • anne.fitchett 17 December 2012 at 10:44 pm #

      You can grow your own beans. Take dried beans and soak them for 12 to 24 hours. Plant two or three beans in a pot (or in the garden if you have one). Water every day until the second set of leaves appear, then use the perkiness of the leaves to tell you how often to water. This is a cool way to test whether your food is irradiated – the seeds will not grow. Beans are nitrate fixers, so alternate planting tomatoes or leafy veg in the following season for a great crop.

  5. mehtas 21 March 2013 at 7:31 am #

    HI Matty,
    I didn’t know about peeling those giant beans before eating so i actually soaked those suckers overnight and pressure cooked them with lots of water and a bay leaf to get rid of the gas and just blended them up in my food processor and it became a mush and i made burgers with them. I guess i got a lot of fiber but haven’t had any tummy problems this morning so i guess i will be ok. Actually i had bought this Deep fried favabean snack at an asian store and just totally loved the taste of it, the peel was on it so i didn’t think of peeling it off.
    I will make patte next. Thanks so much for all the info.

    • Matty 26 May 2013 at 4:04 pm #

      Thanks for sharing and reading; making burgers sounds like a great idea.

  6. Wisdom discernment 23 May 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    I put a paring knife slit in the indented side of the bean after soaking and they pretty much shot out of the shell as I pinched the skins. Thanks for the info. I am getting ready to cook them now…

    • Matty 26 May 2013 at 4:03 pm #

      Thanks for the tip and for reading, hope you enjoyed them!

  7. billsmissy 1 July 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    Wish I did some research before I cooked them. Had no idea about the peeling thing. Thought they were a different bean just called fava in the dried state. Boy, what a lesson. Your pate will be my end result as they will be cold before I get to peeling. Thanks for the lesson

  8. […] it easier to remove the skin and isn’t such a big mess. ARGHHH!!! At least knowing that I made the same mistake as these two guys did, I don’t feel that stupid after […]

  9. t white 12 November 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    Goya sells dried peeled favas which is worth it if you want to make favas often. Try soaking overnight and cooking for an hour. ground walnuts go nicely in bean pate.

Leave a Reply