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Broad beans and stale bread

November 11, 2010

I've been going to the South Melbourne Market for more than five years now, ever since I first arrived in Melbourne. Last year we moved a mere 100 metres from the market so I really do have wonderful produce right on my doorstep.

It's changed the way we eat and cook. Once I would go food shopping – at the supermarket - with particular dishes in mind only to find I sometimes couldn’t get all the ingredients required. These days I go to the market with an open mind, looking for inspiration from what’s available on the day.

I go there three, maybe four times a week. Generally I do a quick survey of the fruit and vegetable stalls to see what’s in, what’s new, who has the best buys.

Price isn’t the only influence. Sometimes I’ll see something I haven’t tried before so I’ll buy it and experiment. Occasionally I learn things the hard way like the day I picked up a strange fruit and one of the staff started waving frantically and shouting “Don’t touch them!” I learned fast why there were tongs in the prickly pear fruit box and spent days picking out the tiny sharp hairs.

Stall holders are a good source of information as are fellow shoppers.  When I see someone filling a large bag with peppers or eggplants or mangoes I’ll ask, “What will you make with all those?” Invariably I come away with a new recipe idea.

There’s always someone behind the meat and fish counters who’ll tell customers how to cook the goods in their cabinets – what temperature, how long, what to serve it with. “Beautiful! Try it!”

In this new section, My Market, I’ll share my purchases and recipes and we traverse the seasons. You'll probably be able to source similar fare at your own local if our seasons coincide.

Right now we are in the middle of the broad bean season. Supplies are good and prices reasonable. I came home with a large bag of mature beans that were $2.99 kg at the South Melbourne Fresh Fruit Centre.

I’d also bought some cheap tomatoes, intending to use the tail end of a stale ciabatta to make panzanella – bread salad. And there was a bunch of French breakfast radishes ($2.49 at Fruits on Coventry) in my bag. As I unpacked I decided to marry the ingredients.

Broad bean panzanella

1kg broad beans
4 large tomatoes
1 Lebanese cucumber
8 French breakfast radishes
4 slices of stale ciabatta
1 clove garlic
fresh basil
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Pod the broad beans and blanch them in boiling water for five minutes. Plunge them into ice cold water then slip off the outer skin.

Core the tomatoes and roughly dice them. Dice the washed cucumber and cut the washed radishes diagonally into chunky slices.

Brush the ciabatta with a little olive oil and back at 190C for five minutes or until golden brown. Rub with the garlic. Cut into cubes.

Place the vegetables in a bowl, add the bread and sprinkle with a little water to soften the bread. Season with salt and pepper then whisk the oil and vinegar together, pour over the top and toss with salad servers.

Place in a serving dish, sprinkle with some torn basil leaves and serve immediately. Serves 4-6.

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