One of my favourite spring memories as a kid was helping my grandmother shuck broad beans. We’d sit under her terraced verandah with a huge bucket of fagioli, as they’re known in Italian, and we’d pluck out the beans one by one. I remember freaking out the first time I shucked them. The outside skin is really tough and you have split it with your nail to open it. Instead a handful of bright green beans are nestled into this furry little shell, which feels like peach fuzz. It’s the strangest texture. One time, I tried to take a bite out of the broad bean skin and I promise you, it’s bitter, horrible and leaves your entire mouth tingling.
Easter is around the corner, so it’s seems like an Italian Easter pie should really be on the menu.
It was a really sad weekend in our tiny Tuscan town. One of its residents passed away suddenly on Friday night from a cancer and it shook the town a little. Deaths in small towns are a community affair, especially if the person isn’t old. That sounds heartless, but we have a lot of senior citizens. They live on average well into their 80s. It’s incredible. Someone should write a book about it! French women mightn’t get fat, but Italians live forever!
I’ve taken my nonna’s recipe and picked it apart to create this simple winter Italian salad. Most people don’t realise you can eat a lot of winter greens raw. I remember the first time (and the second, third, fourth, fifth) time I served my mum raw green beans. She was not and is still not too impressed about them, but I love the crunch and the fresh flavour. It’s the same with the raw broccoli, fennel and purple cabbage I’ve used in this recipe. They are all delicious raw and super good for you because you’re not boiling out all the vitamins and nutrients. Since I was really keen to get my five a day into this salad, I’ve also used fresh green chilli (they’re a vegetable, right?) and chicory, a bitter local salad green that’s like rocket if all it ate was lemons.