Addictive Broad Bean Pesto


broad bean pesto-3

Addictive Broad Bean Pesto

Every spring I get super excited about broad beans and asparagus and this year artichokes as well. I tend to cook them so much that by the time Summer rolls around, I’m happy to give them a break until next spring.

The only problem with broad beans is that they are a lot of work. The best solution is to share to load. Pour a few glasses of wine and pop the broad beans down in the middle of the table and make it a social thing.

enough for: 2-4
takes: 20 minutes

1.2kg (2.5lb) broad beans unshelled
2 large handfuls finely grated parmesan
squeeze of lemon juice
1 small bunch mint, leaves picked and finely sliced

1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to the boil. Meanwhile, remove broad beans from their cozy pods.

2. Simmer broad beans for 3-4 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of really cold water. Allow to cool.

3. Bribe your helpers with wine and remove the pale green skins from each bean to reveal the bright green treasure inside. You’ll end up with about 200g (7oz) after all that work.

4. Pat the precious beans dry then take a large handful and chop finely.

5. Return to the bowl and stir in cheese, lemon juice, mint leaves and enough extra virgin olive oil to give you the consistency you want. If serving as a sauce I go for more oil or if serving as a dip I use less.

6. Taste and season generously with salt and more lemon juice if it tastes a little flat.


not Spring? – use frozen broad beans. You’ll need about 350g (12oz) These can be added straight to the pot of boiling water.

– serve pesto and quinoa with lamb chops or pork sausages.

carb lovers / more substantial – serve extra quinoa.

short on time? – then broad beans definitely aren’t for you! Replace with 200g (7oz) frozen peas (no need for any peeling – just simmer to defrost then you’re good to add the cheese etc.

dairy-free / vegan – replace Parmesan with finely grated Brazil nuts or almond meal.

more pesto like – add in a small finely chopped clove of garlic and serve with a handful of roasted pine nuts.

paleo (gluten, grain + dairy-free)
– replace cheese with grated brazil nuts. Serve pesto with salmon instead of quinoa.

different herbs – I love mint here but fresh basil leaves are also great or try flat leaf parsley.

broad bean sauce – whizz everything in the food processor until you have a smoothish purée.

Problem Solving Guide

bland – seasoning is important here. Try a little more salt or lemon juice. Sometimes more Parmesan will be what you need.

watery – it’s important to dry the peeled broad beans well before adding the oil etc to avoid having a watery mess.

too crunchy – I like my broad beans ‘al dente’ like well cooked pasta. Best to taste a broad bean before draining from the pot to make sure they are tender enough for you.

mushy broad beans – this means they’ve been overcooked. Make sure you pat them dry with paper towel before adding the other ingredients to get rid of all the excess moisture. Next time check them earlier in the cooking process.

Waste Avoidance Strategy

broad beans – can be frozen but best to use for another meal.

parmesan – wrap in waxed paper or baking paper and store in the fridge in a sealed paper bag or airtight container. Will keep for months. Can be frozen if you’re going away.

lemon – whole lemon will keep wrapped in a plastic bag in the fridge for months.

mint – use for another meal.

Serving Suggestions

I tend to either serve as a dip with crusty bread or as a salad/ sauce to accompany BBQ meat (lamb cutlets are especially good but so is steak) or fish. Will work pretty much anywhere you’d normally use pesto like pasta or on top of soups.

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  • I love the ‘inner’ broad bean, but hate to throw out the skins as they are a good source of fibre, so I chop them up and freeze in small amounts. I then add to soups, casseroles etc.

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