Fresh favas are a favorite big bean, one of the first arrivals in early spring. They have one fault: a thick skin that needs peeling. It is a fiddly job but the bright green, slightly crunchy bean that emerges is ample reward. Even better, when fresh lima beans are in season, they can replace favas without needing to be peeled. Both types of bean are delicious prepared à la tourangelle, in the fashion of Tours, the famous city on the Loire. With roast veal or spring lamb, they are unbeatable.

Serves 4 to 6

  • 3 cups/330 grams/12 ounces shelled fava beans (about 3 pounds/1.35 kilograms favas in the shell)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons/45 grams/1 1/2 ounces butter
  • 4 thick slices lean bacon (about 4 ounces/110 grams), diced
  • 24 baby white onions, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chervil or parsley

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the beans and simmer until tender but still slightly crunchy, 2 to 7 minutes depending on their age and size. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup/125 milliliters/4 fluid ounces of the cooking liquid. Rinse the beans with cold water and drain thoroughly. Peel them by pinching open the stem end of each bean with your thumbnail and popping the bean into a bowl. Set them aside.

For the onions, melt the butter in a frying pan, add the bacon and fry over medium heat until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a draining spoon and set aside. Add the onions to the pan, cover and cook over low heat until they are lightly browned and nearly tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Shake the pan often so they brown evenly. Replace the bacon, add the reserved cooking liquid and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in the beans, chives and chervil, taste and adjust the seasoning. The beans can be prepared ahead and stored up to a day in the refrigerator. Reheat them on top of the stove.

photo by France Ruffenach
by Anne Willan, Chronicle Books, 2007.