Broad Bean farmers in Ormskirk and Broad bean and pea risotto, with walnuts recipe
PUBLISHED: 17:25 12 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:21 20 February 2013
Philippa James overcomes some bad memories as she visits an Ormskirk farm
I have a bad memory about broad beans; as a girl, I was taken to friends of my parents, where we had lunch and I recall these huge, grey blobs with incredibly tough, leathery skins that I was forced to eat, although they were vile in taste and texture, because it was polite.
However, the broad bean is much maligned, often over-cooked, and vastly under-rated. It is one of the oldest crops in cultivation, believed to have been eaten in eastern Mediterranean areas as far back as 6,000BC.
It grows well in rich loams, so is ideally suited to the fields around Ormskirk. It can help fix nitrogen back into the soil, is extremely hardy, and can usually over-winter. However, with temperatures last winter as low as minus 16c, even these hardy plants were killed off, so there will be a shortage of UK grown, early beans this year.
Best eaten young, when they are succulent and tender with an almost buttery taste, especially when not just podded but also skinned - such time, such trouble, but so worth it.
Most usually eaten lightly boiled, or steamed, in other parts of the world the beans are fried, which causes them to split open, and then they are either salted or spiced as a snack and in Latin America the beans are often pureed and used as a filling for corn-based snacks.
I was greeted at Goores Farm in Ormskirk by Sheila Prescott, who married into a local family who have been farming in the area for around a hundred years, and whose parents-in-law, Roy, and Ruth, moved to the farm in the 70s.
Originally Sheilas husband Roy and his brother Clifford grew onions, sprouts, and cauliflowers but, with orders tailing off due to changes in retailers purchasing patterns, the family decided to diversify by branching into other vegetables. They have now added red onions, broccoli, broad beans, leeks, cabbages, swedes, and their speciality - very early, new potatoes, grown under white fleece.
As many businesses are currently having to, the farm is further diversifying, now into a locally delivered, vegetable box scheme; The Cabbage Box, with boxes, described by their daughter, Hayley, as Handy, Traditional, or Vegetable Lovers, starting from only 9, and available to order online.
With the decision not to go into supermarkets and to promote locally grown but not organic produce meaning they could maintain a good price-point, the farm has thrived, and Sheila said: We have a good work-life balance, the kids grow up, life goes by too quickly. Yes, we could farm, like many do, around the clock, but we choose not to.
And Clifford added: During the colder months, we work eight until five and during the main growing season, seven through to eight at night.
Looking at Roy, senior, who is still completely hands on and 76 next birthday, it appears farming is truly in their genes.
Access all areas
Having, at one point, three wheelchair users in the family, I was no stranger to the difficulties getting out and about.
The answer to many prayers is a coffee lounge at the bottom end of Chapel Brow in Leyland called Roccoco owned by the Brothers of Charity, who are based at Lisieux Hall, Chorley. The charitys residents, adults with learning difficulties, are employed in the on-site bakery, at the counter, or in the lounge.
The food is all home-made, including delicious soups, scrumptious cakes and cream teas - and they have arguably the best accessible toilet in the county.
See me cooking
Over the next few months I will be demonstrating how to cook quick and tasty family meals with local produce at farmers markets.
On Saturday May 7th see me at Kirkham Market Square, open from 9am-3pm and on Sunday June 12th, at Burscoughs Older Peoples Club, Lord Street, open from 10am- 1pm. There will be free tastings and recipe sheets too.
Broad bean and pea risotto, with walnuts recipe (v)
1 litres Vegetable stock
300g/10oz Risotto rice, carnaroli or arborio are good
2kg/4lb Fresh broad beans, yields around 400g/14oz after podding and individually skinning each bean, or 400g/14oz of frozen beans, after skinning
100g/4oz Petit pois
1 Onion, finely chopped
1 Clove garlic, finely chopped
1 Glass dry white wine, a Sauvignon Blanc is ideal
Parmesan shaved wafers or grated
About eight walnuts, slightly crushed - optional
1. Melt a large knob of butter in a large pan and gently saute the onion for about five minutes until the onion is tender but not browned.
2. Add the garlic and the rice, stirring to coat every grain in butter. Pour in the wine and stir over a medium heat until it has been absorbed, then add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring until it has been absorbed but so the risotto is still wet enough to just hold its shape, about 18-20 minutes.
3. Season and stir in another knob of butter, the broad beans and peas and stir gently until the beans and peas are warmed through, about three minutes.
Serve with shavings of Parmesan, scatter with the walnuts, if using, I think they make a real difference, and pea shoots, drizzled with good olive oil.
It is national vegetarian week from May 23rd-29th but if you need some meat in your meal, add 200g/8oz of bacon at stage one.
Although best served freshly made, I did freeze the risotto and re-heated it, covered with pierced cling film, until it was piping hot, in the microwave.
It was a bit stodgy but still very good - dont put the garnish on until it is re-heated though.