Fave ‘in porchetta’

The other broad bean recipe that is popular in Le Marche is fave in porchetta and no it’s not some variant of the roast pork so popular throughout central Italy; just to confuse foreigners like me ‘in porchetta’ means in the style of porchetta ie the dish will contain wild fennel, garlic, white wine, and fatty bacon or pancetta.

Almost anything can be in porchetta, and rabbit is the favoured game to cook in this way. Forget all notions of fluffy bunnikins: keeping rabbits was normal in my village – and they were all destined for the pot. When my neighbour Giovanna’s husband was still alive, my early morning cuppa would regularly be interrupted by the scream of a rabbit being despatched by him. It was a bit startling.

Come to think of it, the habit of keeping small animals for food seems to have died out in the last year or so – pigeons and chickens along with the rabbits have disappeared from the coops – and I guess it’s to do with the younger generation preferring to buy their meat from the supermarkets.

Coniglio in porchetta is a fiddle, what with having to bone the rabbit: in the meantime this bean recipe is so much easier, assuming you can get hold of some wild fennel fronds. I rashly planted some in the garden and now it’s impossible to get rid of. The tops of bulb fennel are a pale substitute; don’t use dill as it doesn’t have the right anise flavour and using a herb just because it looks similar isn’t always the best idea. Instead try a half teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds and add some chervil just before serving. Or perhaps add a tablespoon of mistra, ouzo or other anise flavoured spirit.

For 4 to 6 people:

700g broad beans, podded
1 tablespoon olive oil
50g pancetta cubed, or streaky bacon
2 garlic cloves, chopped
100ml white wine
small bunch of wild fennel fronds, chopped
salt and black pepper
extra virgin olive oil for serving

Boil the beans for 3 minutes, and then shell them. They will be only half cooked. While this is happening, sauté the bacon in the olive oil and add the garlic for the final minute or so of frying. Add the beans, wine, fennel fronds, season with a teaspoon of salt and continue frying the mixture until the beans are cooked and most of the wine as evaporated. Finish with some freshly ground black pepper.

Dribble a little extra virgin olive oil over the beans as you dish them up.

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