Food Shorts

Sat, Jul 7, 2007, 01:00

Pod perfect:You don't often see broad beans for sale these days. Supermarkets have scattered outbreaks, involving very large, bulging pods, often organically grown, but these are not great ambassadors for the vegetable.

Perhaps familiarity bred contempt: it was the only bean in Europe before the rest of the family arrived from the New World. But I suspect over-ripeness bred most of the contempt. Anyone with childhood memories of big, wrinkly, grey beans, looking as if they had been found dead in the bath, will know what I mean.

This is a vegetable that is at its best when young and tender. But generations of growers have been reluctant to pluck the beans until their pods are swollen and well packed, perhaps from a misplaced sense of wanting value for money and effort. The trick with broad beans is to pick them when they are no bigger than the average pea and to pod them straight away. Otherwise their natural sugars will turn to starch. Aim to cook them within an hour of picking, and certainly within 12 hours. Simply steam them for a few minutes, until they are tender, and toss with butter. If you have any summer savory, chop it up and stir it in.

Don't despair if you are confined to hoary old beans. The key is to skin them when cooked - just squeeze and the skins will pop, leaving you with the green bean. These can be quite tasty, if a little floury, especially if tossed with some butter, garlic, pancetta and a squeeze of lemon. They can also be pureed, then seasoned with lemon juice, pepper, ground cumin and crushed garlic. Finally, whisk in some good olive oil in a thin stream, as if you're making mayonnaise, and you have the Moroccan dip known as byessar. Tom Doorley

Live the good life

Learn to live "the good life" at a five-day course at the Organic Centre in Rossinver, Co Leitrim (July 23rd-27th). You'll learn how to grow vegetables and herbs, make yogurt and cheese, and bake healthy goodies. Yoga classes, information on sustainable building, garden-centre tours and seaweed walks are all part of the package, which costs €600 and includes lunch and dinner, but not accommodation.

You don't have to be a good-lifer, or even a gardener to enjoy the goings-on. You can just roll up and enjoy the fruits of other people's labour at the Grass Roots Café, which has a busy programme of themed evenings coming up, including Food To Thai For (August 3rd); Wine and Food Extravaganza (a six-course menu each served with an appropriate organic wine, August 10th), and Beer and Cider tasting (August 11th). To wash down the beer and cider there will be a large helping of beer stew with porter gravy and mash, followed by apple cider pudding. See www.theorganiccentre.ie. Marie-Claire Digby

New home for food co-op

The Dublin Food Co-Operative was boiling mung beans back when opening a jar of Ragú was considered the height of culinary sophistication. Members of this not-for-profit organisation, established in 1983, have been buying and selling organic goods and locally grown fruit and vegetables from St Andrew's Resource Centre on Pearse Street, Dublin 2 ever since.

That's all about to change. Next Saturday, they're moving to new premises in Newmarket, off Cork Street in Dublin 8. Aodhagan O'Broin, chairman of the Co-Op, believes it's not before time. "We've been trying to move for the guts of 20 years. Up until now we've had 250 volunteers working on our rota to set up and take down the market every week. Here we'll have permanent shelving, food stores, and we will be able to do educational displays about organic food."

It all sounds good, but given that they are only a hop, skip and jump away from cut-price supermarket Lidl, are they worried about the competition? "In one way we think the more the merrier. You might well get some organic goods cheaper in Lidl, but we will have music, an outdoor cafe and things for kids - it's a totally different shopping experience." The Dublin Food Co-Op will be open every Saturday from 9.30am to 4.30pm. Sinead Mooney