Chianti was the tipple that most infamous of gourmets sipped on to bring out the best in his favourite dish of fava beans served alongside a human liver.
However, you do not need go to Hannibal Lecter extremes to enjoy one of the world’s great gastronomic treasures – the first of the season’s broad beans. A trip to the deli should suffice.
Once there, you should ask for a robust and spicy salami, a wedge of sharp, salty tangy cheese (pecorino, perhaps), an honest loaf of crusty bread and whatever gutsy quaffer tickles your fancy. If you want to go all out you could add some piquant olives and a tiny bottle of that very expensive and very delicious extra virgin oil you’ve had your eye on. This simple and exquisite antipasto is a perfect excuse for it.
Seize the moment (and try not to flinch as you hand over the plastic).
Pour the oil into a jug, the vino into large glasses, and set the remaining goodies out on a platter heaped with fresh young broad beans still nestling inside their velvety pods. Invite the assembled company to dig in. (You will, of course, have chosen your guests for their conviviality, just as you have handpicked the beans, selecting only the smallest and crispest of pods.)
The results, I promise you, will be toothsome, and unlikely to bring you to the attention of the FBI.
It’s a great cheat too – you need not be a good cook, only a good shopper. You don’t even have to shell the beans for goodness’ sake. What could be easier? Just sit back and accept the compliments as they roll in.
For very special occasions, make this Broad Bean and Pecorino Salad and serve it with crusty bread as a vibrant palate-teaser for six people.
1kg fresh unshelled broad beans
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano (I know, but it works, trust me)
3 tablespoons fresh parsley
quarter teaspoon chilli flakes
250g soft sheep’s milk cheese, cut in cubes the size of a broad bean
salt and pepper to taste
Shell the beans, combine with all the remaining ingredients and toss to blend.