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I shared a little teaser for today’s post on my Instagram feed this week, phrasing it ‘wait till you see what I can do with 6 minutes, a steam oven and some frozen green veg’. People, I was not lying, but I’m almost ashamed to share this and call it a ‘steam oven recipe’ when it could, in fact, be done pretty effectively with a stove top steamer pan in the same time. I mentioned this to a friend, who responded that if she had a steam oven she would want to know ALL the ways in which she could use it to justify the space and expense it incurred. She said until she started reading my blog she thought they were only useful appliances if you like to eat a diet solely comprised of plain steamed vegetables and tasteless white protein in the form of chicken breasts and fish. So there you go. Steamed vegetables, yes. But plain, nope. And not a piece of tasteless protein in sight.
The other reason I’m going to share today’s recipe with you is that I’ve been going through all your survey responses (thank you! So many replies! I’ve left if open for a few more days in case any of you still want to participate – go here to have your say about my upcoming steam oven cookbook). In doing so I’ve discovered a number of things I sort of knew about already, but also some new things regarding how you all feel about the resources, or lack thereof, currently available for steam oven cooking and recipes. Call me a nerd, but I had a very happy few hours creating a chart of the recurring themes and problems you highlighted, and am pretty excited to (attempt to) address them in the steam oven recipe book* and also here on the blog.
Anyway, what does that have to do with peas and broad beans? Well, there were an overwhelming majority of you who mentioned in the survey that you struggle to find recipes and general inspiration for regular, approachable but interesting things to make in your steam ovens. Most of you seem to be aware of how to steam a carrot or some broccoli, but want ideas about how to expand on that and make your appliance work for you every day by integrating it into your normal cooking. Fair enough – that’s what I’ve spent the past 5 years figuring out, so hopefully I can share some of my simple hacks along with more detailed recipes.
This pea and broad bean number falls squarely into the simple hacks category but also squarely into the ‘some of my favourite things for quick lunches’ category. I first came across the idea of smashed pea crostini in Jamie’s Italy several years ago, and have made it in a few iterations since. This one, with heaps of fresh mint and the citrusy spike of preserved lemon, is my favourite. I made a big bowl of the pea/bean smash this week along with some whipped feta, which is not at all steam oven related but I’ve shared details below in case you’re curious. Apart from using them both to top garlicky toast as pictured, I’ve stirred them through hot pasta with a big spoonful of yoghurt and used as a spread inside flatbreads filled with grilled vegetables and haloumi cheese. I highly recommend all versions.
As far as using the steam oven goes, I used frozen baby peas and broad beans and steamed them for just long enough to blanch and bring out the colour (if you can find fresh veg by all means use it instead, just knock a couple of minutes off the steaming time). They were put in to steam straight from frozen, and the very hardest part of the whole exercise was popping the beans from their outer skins after blanching. It takes all of a couple of minutes and is strangely satisfying to squeeze each little bean until the bright green insides shoot out into the food processor bowl.
So there you go. I hope if you’ve so far only considered the steam oven in terms of making a dish from beginning to end, this will give you an idea of how to begin using it as a kitchen ‘helper’ as well – just as you don’t always use a frypan to create a dish from start to finish, nor do you need to use the steam oven that way. Make it work for you with the little jobs too!
*on the steam oven cookbook: what started as an idea to produce a small-ish, simple book of recipes to give inspiration to steam oven owners has turned into a mammoth project involving a truly enormous amount of oven brand research, testing and writing! I am, as mentioned above, excited to produce something you will all be desperate to own but also a little daunted by the scale of my self-imposed task. I am a pretty determined lady though, so bear with me for a few months while I figure things out and put it together.
Steam Oven Pea and Broad Bean Crostini with Whipped Feta
The quantities below will make enough for 4-6 large pieces of toast, or 6-8 medium ones. Or a couple of pieces with leftovers for some other purpose! The smashed peas/beans will last for 2-3 days in the fridge, covered with cling film directly on its surface to stop browning. The whipped feta keeps for 4-5 days in the fridge in an airtight container.
If you don’t have preserved lemons on hand, go and buy them or make some right now to keep in your fridge because they are super easy and will last for ages and make all your meals sing. Kidding (well, sort of. They are pretty great). Just shower a bit of finely grated lemon zest over the top of your crostini, or omit it altogether because the greens on their own are still fabulous.
The whipped feta is incredibly easy save for one thing which I learned the hard way: both the cheeses need to be at room temperature or you’ll be cursing the big cold clumps flying around in your processor and steadfastly refusing to become the creamy, salty delight you’re after. Don’t be like me and make an easy task stupidly hard.
If you aren’t making the whipped feta you might like to add a good pinch of salt to the greens to balance things out.
Ingredients for the smashed peas and beans
280g (2 cups) frozen baby peas
300g (2 cups) frozen broad beans (also known as fava beans)
A very large handful of fresh mint leaves
¼ of a preserved lemon, flesh and pith removed and discarded, skin finely chopped
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
Ingredients for the whipped feta
200g (1 1/3 cups) feta cheese, roughly crumbled and at room temperature
100g (a scant ½ cup) cream cheese, cubed and at room temperature
Slices of ciabatta or sourdough bread, toasted
A clove of garlic, halved and the cut sides rubbed over each piece of toast
Olive oil to drizzle (optional but delicious)
Finely sliced sugar snap peas (again, optional)
Set your oven to 100⁰C (steam only). Put your frozen peas and beans into a solid tray in a single layer and steam for 4-5 minutes, until they’re hot but not overly cooked.
While the vegetables are in the oven, drop the mint leaves into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to chop them. Add the diced preserved lemon and pulse briefly again.
As soon as the beans are cool enough to touch, pop each one out of its greyish outer skin and drop the bright green insides into the food processor with the mint and lemon. When you’re done, tip the peas in as well. Pulse the processor to chop everything roughly, then, with the motor running, pour in your oil slowly, using just enough so the mix comes together as a cohesive mass. The idea is to chop the peas and beans fairly well but not to make a smooth ‘cream’ out of them.
If you’re making the whipped feta as well, scrape the smashed peas and beans into a bowl and rinse the food processor bowl (unless you’re fine with green flecks in the feta, which would be totally ok with me if I came to your house). Put both cheeses into the processor and run it for a few minutes until you’ve got a very creamy, smooth consistency.
To serve, load your garlic toast with the whipped feta then the smashed peas and beans. Drizzle with a little oil if you like and eat immediately.
But I don’t have a steam/combi-steam oven! Steam your peas and beans in a stovetop steamer basket for a few minutes instead of using the steam oven. If you don’t have a steamer basket, you can boil them in a pinch, but you’ll lose some of the nutrients and some of the flavour in doing so.