Life is always dotted with food memories. This summer the abundance of broad beans that I received in my weekly veg boxes got me thinking about my Ouma (Afrikaans for grandmother) and her food. It was always exciting and novel. Meals were somewhat of a more formal atmosphere than a child would like, but the food was always so good.
We grew up pottering in her vegetable garden, pulling raspberries off the bush, opening little Chinese lanterns to find cape gooseberries (phaselis) inside and eating them right then and there. The sweet garden peas popping from their pods as we chewed them. I remember sitting in the huge kitchen on the farm, with the Aga in the background, eating hot porridge with lashings of sugar and cream fresh from my oupa’s herd of dairy cows that had been milked that morning. I couldn’t have been more than 2 or 3 years old but it feels like yesterday.
One of the things that I absolutely loved when she made dinner or lunch was her broad beans in sour sauce. The tiny sweet beans in contrast to the tart sauce got all the taste buds going. Part of the fun was shelling the peas with her before lunch; it made it more interactive and fun to see something you had helped make on your plate at lunch. Ouma’s was the only place we got to eat broad beans that I knew of as a child in South Africa as they were not something readily available in the shops, well not until recently. Imagine my excitement when we moved to the UK and broad beans were so easy to get a hold of. So the last few summers I have indulged my inner child and had fun shelling, cooking and eating broad beans. I think these two recipes showcase the produce wonderfully and are just tasty. Hopefully you enjoy them too.
Ouma’s Broad Beans with Sour Sauce
1kg broad beans in their pods
1tsp caster sugar
¼ tsp salt
2 Tbsp spirit vinegar – can use white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp water
Shell and wash the broad beans. Bring a medium sized pot of salted water to the boil. Put the broad beans in the boiling water for 4 minutes and then drain.
Put a small pot of water on to boil. Test the glass bowl over the pot – the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Beat the egg in the glass bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat well. Put the bowl over the pot of water and continue to beat all the ingredients with a fork until it starts to thicken. Keep beating until it is light and fluffy.
Put the warm beans into a serving dish and cover with the sauce. Ready to serve.
Adapted from Jamie Oliver - Broad Bean Carbonara Pasta
Freshly ground black pepper
500 g penne
3 handfuls fresh broad beans
4 large free-range egg yolks
100 ml single cream
1 small handful Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
6 slices high welfare back bacon, cut into chunky lardons
1 small bunch fresh thyme, leaves picked and chopped, flowers reserved (if you can get hold of flowering thyme)
Put a large and a medium pan of salted water on to boil. Wash your broad beans. Your water will now be boiling, so add the penne to the pan and cook according to the packet instructions. Add your broad beans to the water and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the pan and plunge into a bowl of cold water to refresh. Once the beans have cooled down slightly peel the tougher skin off any of the larger beans and leave the smaller ones whole.
To make your creamy carbonara sauce, put the egg yolks into a bowl, add the cream and half the Parmesan, and mix together with a fork. Season lightly and put to one side.
Heat a very large frying pan (a 35cm one is a good start – every house should have one!), add a good splash of olive oil and fry the pancetta or bacon until dark brown and crisp. Add the broad beans and 2 big pinches of black pepper, not just to season but to give it a bit of a kick. Sprinkle in the thyme leaves, give everything a stir, so the broad beans become coated with all the lovely bacon-flavoured oil, and fry until they have softened slightly.
It's very important to get this next bit right or your carbonara could end up ruined. You need to work quickly. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving a little of the cooking water. Immediately, toss the pasta in the pan with the broad beans, bacon and lovely flavours, then remove from the heat and add a ladleful of the reserved cooking water and your creamy sauce. Stir together quickly. (No more cooking now, otherwise you'll scramble the eggs.)
It is ready to eat straight away. While you're tossing the pasta and sauce, sprinkle in the rest of the Parmesan and a little more of the cooking water if needed to give you a silky and shiny sauce. Taste quickly for seasoning. Then serve and eat immediately, as the sauce can become thick and stodgy if left too long.
Grandmère is my godmother. She and her husband moved to South Africa from Switzerland in the 60s to work as missionary doctors up in the north east, now known as Mpumulanga. It was in a very small and dusty village that my parents met them in the 80s. I remember their house being so exotic. The front door was draped in Jade Vine flowers, the garden had bitter kumquats growing on little trees and there was always an air of mystery when I went to visit. Even now back in Switzerland, with her house filled with African memorabilia, I still get the same sense of excitement when I go visit. A visit to grandmère is unlike visiting anyone else. She feeds you from the moment you arrive till the moment you leave and sends you away with tid bits. The most recent visit started with a rabbit casserole, sweet roasted onions and carrots. African spinach with tomato and peanuts, fresh green salad, crusty breads, cheese and a fruit tart to round it all off. It was heavenly.
As children my sisters and I would fight over who got to wash salad in Grandmère’s salad spinner, a very fantastic invention which was so much fun to use. As they are older than me they always won the fight. So I sat up on the kitchen counter and watched as the water wizzed around the bowl and the lettuce came clean. Every meal in her house is started with a simple salad of lettuce and chives lightly dressed “avec un bon jus,” with a good dressing and plenty fresh bread. I always thought her recipe for salad dressing was a secret but she and her daughters taught me how to make it when I lived in Switzerland. I now very rarely make any other dressing.
Un bon jus pour la salade – A good dressing for salad
4 Tbsp god quality extra virgin olive oil (the really green peppery stuff)
1 ½ Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard (or Thomy mustard is you can get it online)
1 tsp Marmite (again you should use Cenovis but it is not always the easiest to get a hold of outside of Switzerland)
1 Tbsp plain yoghurt
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Mix all the ingredients together in the bowl in which you intend to serve the salad. As with most salad dressings people’s taste differ slightly so feel free to adjust the seasoning or the acidity. I for one prefer a dressing with a bit of an acidic kick. You can add herbs or honey to the dressing or take away the yoghurt. As you like.
Wash your salad leaves of choice. I love fresh and crunchy baby gem or Romaine lettuce. Tear the leaves into the bowl and make sure the baby heart of the lettuce goes in whole. Toss it all together and serve before your main course with some fresh pain de champagne or sour dough loaf.
The person who gets the heart of the lettuce in the salad should give it away to the one who holds their heart, a sweet gesture to go with your meal and a little bit of fun.
What are your food memories?
Good food is very often, even most often, simple food. - Anthony Bourdain