Fave – king of the comfort food

Although the lovely weather is continuing here in Puglia, the evenings are cooler and providing a great excuse for some comfort food.  We even lit the fire the other night, but that really had more to do with somebody’s pyrotechnic tendencies rather than the cold.

With a diet rich in pasta and pulses, comfort food is not hard to come by here.  But a speciality of the area, and a favourite of nearly every visitor I know is Puree di Fave. Fave are broad beans and here you can buy them dried and shelled throughout the year.  If you can find them locally, they need to be without the brown coat and will probably therefore have split into their two halves; they are a very pale, creamy colour.

Making puree di fave is simple.  Soak the fave beans for at least 6 hours, then put the pan on the stove (you can use the top of your woodburner if it’s lit!) and simmer the beans with a sliced potato, for about an hour.  Don’t add salt at this stage.  Plan on about 100g of dried fave per person.  When the beans are soft and breaking up, and the water is almost gone, add about a tablespoon of olive oil per 100g of beans and starting beating with a wooden spoon.  This is when you need to get a friend with a strong arm to help!  Or if you’re not feeling tied to tradition, a handheld electric beater would probably be a good help too.  Also add a teaspoon or two of salt at this stage.

When the puree is smooth, serve with another drizzle of olive oil on top, with a green vegetable – usually chicory here, or grilled peppers.  Twists also include adding cooked prawns, fried croutons or chopped raw onion.

As with many customs in Puglia, the way Fave is served differs from town to town.  One evening a couple of years ago we were out with a group of friends who were discussing the different ways that people from Martina Franca and Ostuni served leftover Fave.  Keith and I looked at each other – What’s leftover fave?!  It doesn’t make it past the first meal in our house!

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