Puglia style fava beans purée

I always say that. My #foodhappiness is all about experimenting with senses and flavours, developing new, familiar habits, bringing gastronomical culture further. To participate, to share, to bring my enthusiasm on yet another level. I had been digitally acquainted with the talented Emiko Davies for a few months now. What I love about being part of this incredible global food community is its lively interaction, its exuberant mutual support and a sense of sharing that I've never seen in any other category. And that is such a blessing.

This fifty-fifty Japanese/Australian charming woman comes fully equipped with an adorable 2 years old toddler, Mariu, a camera which she masters to perfection and a strenuous dedication to the background history of Tuscan food. Just like me, Emiko will publish her debut cookbook too next year, and I cannot wait to do some promotional events together: here is her story. As I already did in the past with Rachel Roddy and Elizabeth Minnett, we decided to meet for a shared foodie experience. Here is her version of our exchange, along with a delightful recipe for Octopus and Potato Salad that we also made on our morning together.

We hugged like old friends as we met for a cappuccino and a morning pastry at Porto Ercole's local breakfast bar. This small town is located in the Argentario area, a place a little more than 100 km. north of Rome. It's a must visit if you want to get spoilt for either seaside, countryside, or thermal pleasures, you name it: the Silver Coast has it all. And that's where Emiko is currently living with her young family.

I let my dried fava beans rest in abundant water overnight. This is the classic fava bean purée of Puglia, enjoyed alongside olive oil-smothered greens.

In popular culture there are many widespread beliefs  related to the fava bean. In the lands of Gargano, in Apulia, on the night of St. John the Baptist, all girls of marriageable age put three fava beans under the pillow , one with the peel, another one without and the third slightly bitten at the top. During the night, each girl would take a random one: the first (the one with the peel), would hold the prophecy for a rich life; the second (without the skin), would destine the girl to a poor existence and finally the third (the bitten bean), would lead her to a mediocre life.

Because the fava bean has the tendency to swell during cooking, it has always evoked, in rural culture, the idea of a pompous man with an inflated self . There's a saying, still popular today, "to kill two birds with one stone", the literally translation of the stone being the fava bean, that is to say that you can get two benefits with one effort.

Try and find dried fava beans imported from either Italy or northern Africa, for the most legitimate gusto and texture. This has been sustenance food in Puglia for ages, and remains today one of the region's typical dishes.

Fava beans purée and friggitelli peppers (serves 4 people as a main course)

For the fava beans:

  • 250 gr. dried split fava beans
  • cool water to cover by 2 inches
  • 1 small Charlotte potato
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 50 ml. excellent extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt flakes

For the greens:

  • 1 kg. Green Friggitelli Peppers
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 unwaxed organic lemon
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint

Soak the beans in copious cool water and cover with a cloth overnight at room temperature. Drain and rinse them well.

On a wooden board, peel the potato and dice it in small pieces.

In a large, heavy pot, place the beans, the potatoes, fresh water to cover by 2 inches and finally the bay leaf. Set over low heat and bring to a boil.

Simmer, covered, until very tender, for about 1 hour and 45 minutes, making sure never to stir it. Using a perforated spoon, skim off any foam that rises to the surface of the water.

You'll realize your fava beans are done once the whole water has been absorbed and the texture is very much like polenta: creamy and heavy, not runny. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, control that the base of the pot is slightly burnt, then shake the casserole manually up and down. This way, the puree will detach itself from the pot. If needed, add a bit of water to thin it out. Sprinkle with salt and oil.

In the meanwhile make the friggitelli: let the oil warm up in a large frying pan, then splash in the mini green peppers, the juice of a lemon and its zest. Cover with a lid and let cook for about 20 minutes, stirring continously. At half cooking, add some chopped mint.

Drizzle the fava bean puree and the peppers with some more olive oil.

Thoroughly enjoy until sated.

With love and fava beans,

Eleonora

Photo Credits © by the brilliant Emiko Davies

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