Friday, December 3, 2010

Beans are amazing.

Yup, that's right.  Beans are amazing.  Sometimes I forget just how amazing beans are.

Beans are one of the longest-cultivated plants.  The cultivation of beans even predates ceramics!  Beans were an important source of protein throughout Old and New World history, and still are today. There are over 4,000 cultivated varieties of bean on record in the United States alone.  Certain beans, like Kidney beans are actually toxic, but don't worry because boiling them for at least 10 minutes destroys those toxins.  Another method of destroying the toxins (and making the beans more digestible for humans) is to ferment them.

Today, let's focus on fava beans (also known as: Broad Beans, Bell Beans, Tic Beans, Butter Beans, Windsor Beans, Horse Beans, English Beans, Feve Beans, Faba Beans, Haba or Habas)  These are not to be confused with Lima beans which are sometimes also called butter beans.
  • In ancient Greece and Rome, beans were used in voting; a white bean being used to cast a yes vote, and a black bean for no.  Also, beans were used as a food for the dead, especially during festivals. 
  • In Italy, broad beans are traditionally sown on November 2, All Souls Day. Small cakes made in the shape of broad beans (though not out of them) are known as fave dei morti or "beans of the dead". According to tradition, Sicily once experienced a failure of all crops other than the beans; the beans kept the population from starvation. Some people carry a broad bean for good luck; some believe that if one carries a broad bean, one will never be without the essentials of life. 
  • In Portugal, a Christmas cake called Bolo Rei ("King cake") is baked with a fava bean inside. Whoever eats the slice containing it, is supposed to buy next year's cake.
  • European folklore also claims that planting beans on Good Friday or during the night brings good luck.
Broad beans are rich in tyramine, and should be avoided by those taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).  Raw broad beans contain the alkaloids vicine, isouramil and convicine, which can induce hemolytic anemia in people with a glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency and can be fatal (also known as "favism").  Though, hemolysis resulting from "favism" may actually act as a protection against malaria.  Broad beans are also rich in L-dopa.  This substance is used medically in the treatment of Parkinson's disease.  It is also a natriuretic agent, which might help in controlling hypertension. 
According to the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, one cup of cooked fava beans contains about 187 calories, 1 g of fat, 33 g of carbohydrates and 13 g of protein.  73% of calories come from carbohydrates, 3% from fat and 24% from protein.  They have 9 g of fiber (37% of the daily value).  Fava beans are a rich source of many essential vitamins, especially B vitamins.  Fava beans also contain many essential minerals. They are a good source of manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and iron.  While fava beans are a good source of protein, the protein they contain is not complete and must be paired with complementary proteins, such as those contained in grain products. 
Alright, I'm sure that's enough information for all of you to realize that beans are really awesome.  Now, on to the recipe.

Citations: Wikipedia: Bean, Vicia faba, Cook's Thesaurus: Dry Beans)

A little background:
A bit over a year ago, I went to Scotland with Opal, her mom, and Rita.  Opal's mom has a jewelry company called Billy's a Bad Kitty, and they had a booth at a Scottish art fair during the Fringe Festival.  There was a little restaurant/cafe next to the art fair.  It carried some pies that we would sometimes eat for lunch.  One of those pies was "Butter bean and Brie Pie."  It was possibly the most wonderful taste experience of my life.  Imagine yourself in an extremely old Scottish cemetery.  It's drizzling rain.  You're a bit cold, wrapped up in warm clothes, and you go into the warm restaurant and buy a single serving pie with a beautifully golden puff pastry shell.  You take it back to the booth.  You cut into the pie with your fork and take a bite.  It's magical.  Buttery crust, perfectly cooked beans, flavorful but not overbearing brie, and a slightly creamy sauce  to tie it all together.

I'm drooling just thinking about it.

Well, I came home and dreamt about that pie.  I was still going through me "I don't like baking" stage, so I let it sit there in the back of my mind... waiting for the right moment to strike.

Life happened, I was home for Thanksgiving, and among the things I was sent back to Davis with (Thank you, Mom), was a 12 oz  bag of dry fava beans.  I couldn't figure out what I was going to do with them until I looked them up online, and found out that they're also called butter beans.  And then the pie sprang into my thoughts.  I went and bought a wedge of brie and some frozen puff pastry (yes, I could have made croissant dough... but I was feeling lazy).  I had all the other ingredients at home.  And so it began.


This is the description from Simple Simon's website:
butter beans are casseroled in a vegetable and white wine stock with a good dose of garlic and finished with parsley, cream and lemon juice. Brie is then added to the cooled ingredients prior to baking.

This is what I ended up with (measurements are approximate):

1lb Butter Beans (if you're starting with dried fava beans you'll have to soak them overnight, then blanch them in boiling water for 10min, then cool them and take off the outer shell/thick husk before you boil them with the other ingredients)
2 cups Vegetable stock (chicken broth also works)
3 dashes White wine (I had sherry, and I wasn't going to go buy a bottle of wine just for 1 recipe)
5 cloves Garlic, minced
1/4 large onion, chopped and sauted
1 tsp Parsley
1/4 cup Cream (or 1/2&1/2)
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 largish wedge of Brie cut into chunks

Cook beans in broth, wine and garlic until tender.  Stir in sauteed onion, parsley, cream and lemon juice into Butter bean mixture, let cool.

Preheat oven to 400.  Place puff pastry into a muffin pan (I wanted to make small pies) and spoon mixture in puff pastry shells, cover with more pastry, making sure the pies are sealed around the edges (use water or egg, according to puff pastry directions), bake about 10-15min until golden brown.  (For my pies, I ended up taking the pies out of the muffin pan and flipped them over onto a baking sheet and baked them another 5-10min so the bottoms were also browned and puffy).


I know it's cheating, but I really would recommend the Trader Joe's Frozen Puff Pastry... they worked very nicely.  The Husband even commented on how much he liked the pastry shells.

I know I'm going to end up making these again, because they are SO delicious.  Probably for a party this Christmas season.

The Husband is working on getting his finals done for school, so who knows when I'll post next, but I am hoping that I'll have more things to post over the winter break.  For now, I'll leave you with this:


  1. Those really were the best pies on the face of planet. I have to say that the crust was more like butter barely held together with some flour. I was so so sad when we went back the next year and the Scullery had closed.
    Also, it's was more than a little over a year ago. It was a little over two years ago.

  2. Yeah, I wasn't sure about the time... so I figured I'd err on the short side... because it doesn't "feel" like that long ago.

    Also, WHAT?! They closed?! NOOOOOOooo!

  3. Waving from Fairfield Ca! =) Thanks for these great recipes. I found you on Pinterest!

  4. 2 cups of liquid doesn't seem like much for a whole pound of butter beans, even with the wine. I think I'd want to soak the beans overnight. I blog about beans at and that brought me to your blog, which I enjoy greatly. Will be back!