Fava Bean Purée with chicory
Auntie Lucia regularly makes this healthy soul-satisfying vegan dish. It captures the best of the Mediterranean diet in both simplicity and flavour. It is a traditional plant-based Pugliese dish and is easy to make. Known in Italy as fave e cicoria, it is a fava bean puree with sautéed, wild chicory greens. Fava beans are a staple of Puglia, and the chicory plant grows freely in the fields, so it is easy to find all year round. The Mediterranean diet focuses a lot on plant-based foods such as fruit and vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils and peas, nuts and seeds and of course fish – it doesn’t really consume large portions of red meat.
In Puglia, the cucina povera tradition (literally meaning poor kitchen) celebrates the art of making great food with simple, yet high quality, mostly plant based, seasonal ingredients. These were the type of meals our grandmother would prepare regularly. Our family was typical for that time: eleven children and all living in 2 rooms in the old town of Bari. Money was very tight but somehow, between all of them, they made it work and enjoyed family meals together. There was of course the countryside where they could grow some fruit and vegetables but it wasn’t easy to get there in those days.
Unlike here in the UK where we grab a quick sandwich or pop something into the microwave, in Puglia, many people still follow the traditions of closing their shops and offices at lunchtime and either going home or to a restaurant for a freshly cooked meal. One tradition that in my opinion, we could well do with over here. It would go a long way towards improving our general wellbeing.
Shopping tip: Wild chicory greens can be difficult to find in the UK. A good alternative would be greens that have a bitter taste such as: dandelion leaves, kale or turnip tops.
The slightly bitter greens are a perfect complement to the sweet, creamy flavour of the pureed fava beans. It really is a marriage of two perfect textures and flavours.
400g dried Fava beans without skins
1 small onion (or 2 cloves of garlic), finely sliced
1 medium potato cut into half
salt & pepper
slices of toasted or fried bread/taralli for serving
Preparing the beans:
First wash the dried fava beans well. Cover them with at least two inches of water above the beans and soak them in water for an hour before use or follow the instructions on the packet.
Drain the beans.
In a large saucepan, add the fava beans and enough water to cover them by at least 1 inch, the chopped onion/garlic, a large pinch of salt and simmer, stirring from time to time.
Cook the beans for approx. 1 ½ - 2 hours or until soft.
When the beans are beginning to soften, add the halved potato to the simmering pot.
Once the beans and potato have softened and are cooked, most of the water should have been absorbed, stir them with a wooden spoon to reduce them to a puree.
Preparing the greens:
While the fava beans are simmering, wash the chicory, trim the stems by around one inch. Clean well and cut in half lengthwise if the leaves are really long, then place them in to a large saucepan.
Season lightly with salt and cook until the leaves and stalks are soft.
Turn off the heat and keep them warm.
While the beans are still warm, having stirred them into a puree, if they are still lumpy, do give them a mash – add a little extra virgin olive oil or a little of the water from the pan with the chicory so that the fava beans are smooth and creamy.
Spoon the blended fava beans into a shallow bowl or serving dish, arrange the cooked chicory in a mound in the centre or the side of the dish.
Serve with toasted bread or taralli, salt & pepper as desired and always with a drizzle of Terre Di San Vito’s extra virgin olive oil.
Purè di Fave e Cicoria can also be enjoyed as a fava bean dip appetizer.
Use the best quality extra virgin Italian olive oil you can find and afford.
Adding a peeled potato to the fava beans at the end of the cooking process helps to make the fava bean puree extra creamy, the key to the success of this dish.
Dandelion greens, kale, rape or turnip tops are a great substitute for chicory and they offer potential health benefits including helping to fight inflammation, aiding blood sugar control and boosting the immune system.
This recipe is meant to be served as soon as it’s been made.
Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave – just add a little water to help keep its creamy texture.
Always serve this with a bottle of our fabulous Terre Di San Vito Apeneste white wine.