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Broad beans, butternut squash and chickpeas for Dynamic Ageing

My organic vegetable box was brimming over with broad beans this week which set me thinking about how to use up such an unexpected abundance – and most importantly, how might this bright green, curvacious little vegetable contribute to Dynamic Ageing?! Is it a nutritional dynamo? Yes! It is rich in plant protein, plenty of fibre for healthy digestion and cholesterol levels, ample B vitamins including folate, several minerals like magnesium, potassium and iron, and powerful anti-oxidants to boost immunity.

How about its role in the kitchen? Broad beans are truly seasonal – at least the fresh ones – and their faintly sweet and earthy flavour is a delight at this time of the year. Admittedly they are not fast food, as they need to podded and then skinned, but the process is actually quite therapeutic and the quantity in the recipe below took no more than five minutes for the first step and just nine for the second. It is tempting not to bother with the skinning, but whenever I give in to this temptation, I invariably regret it as broad beans still wearing their pale green outer jacket have a slight but unpleasant chewiness which ruins the dish. I do however sometimes add them unskinned and raw to a salad which works well enough.

Out of season? Frozen podded broad beans are available in most supermarkets and just need to be skinned – I don’t hesitate to use them when the fresh ones run out as freezing does not affect the flavour.

In this recipe, I have combined broad beans with butternut squash, simply because they shared the vegetable box. Squash is beautiful to look at with its rich orange flesh but is not particularly talented when it comes to flavour, so I like to roast it with plenty of spice. It works well with Middle Eastern stars like coriander, cumin and cinnamon or a good dash of chilli to perk it up, and spice mixtures like chermoula, shawarma, harissa and ras el hanout are all successful partners. In this case, I have used Steenbergs of Yorkshire’s tagine mix which has a good kick of heat as well as plenty of fragrance.

FRESH BROAD BEANS ROASTED WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH, CHICKPEAS AND SPICES Serves 2 as a lunch dish, 4 as a side dish 1 large butternut squash – look for one with a long, fat neck as the bulbous part of the squash has little flesh 30 ml/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 15 ml/1 tbsp Steenbergs’ tagine spice mix or similar, or to taste 1 kg fresh broad beans, unpodded or 200 g podded weight 400 g tinned/canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained 15 g fresh oregano, leaves stripped from the stalks and coarsely chopped Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper For the yoghurt:- 350 ml plain yoghurt – I use COYO natural organic yoghurt 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice or to taste Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper Preheat the oven to 180oC. Peel the butternut squash and scrape out the seeds – I simply discard the stringy bulbous part but you can use it for soup if you wish. Cut the flesh into 2 cm pieces. Place in a bowl, pour over the oil and sprinkle first with the tagine mix and then some salt and pepper. Give it all a good stir to distribute the spices evenly and transfer to an oven tray lined with baking parchment. Roast in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring once or twice, until soft and starting to caramelise around the edges. While the squash is roasting, pod the broad beans. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add the podded beans. Cook for three minutes then drain and plunge into cold water. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, gently slip off the skins. Mix all the ingredients for the yoghurt in a bowl and check the seasoning – it needs to be quite sharp and tangy. Ten minutes before the butternut squash is ready, stir in the chickpeas and return to the oven for five minutes, then add the broad beans and oregano. Cook for a final five minutes. Serve immediately with the yoghurt.

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