Fave Fritte (Fried Fava Beans) & Aperitivo!
The Italian Aperitivo is a cultural habit that involves catching up with friends of colleagues after work over a drink and a light (or not so light) bite. The experience of aperitivo is a cultural ritual. Derived from the Latin verb 'aperire', the tradition is meant “to open” the stomach before dining.
Drinks usually involve colourful cocktails - think Aperol or Campari spritz or Negronis - bubbly glasses of Prosecco, or red and white wine.
Food will vary regionally but generally involves cheeses, olives, different kinds of focaccia and bread, and in the south sometimes what we call “rustici” (kinda like canapés I guess, usually made with puff pastry)
Aperitivo is usually an appetiser to dinner and accordingly, for centuries Italians have said cheers – cin cin – over drinks and appetisers in the early evening hours between work and dinner.
These Fave Fritte (lit. fried fava / fried broad beans) are a typical aperitivo snack you’ll find in Sicily (and I believe in the region Apulia as well?). Dried peeled fava beans are deep fried and flavoured with herbs - such as rosemary or thyme - or spices.
They remind me of the spicy Indian snacks (you may have heard the word ‘Namkeen’), many of which use lentils or chickpeas that are deep fried and seasoned with spices, dried fruits and nuts.
Dried fava are easily available in levantine and middle eastern grocers, if you can't find them at your regular supermarket.
These + an icy cold Campari Spritz are the perfect aperitivo for this weather. We just couldn't stop eating them and, as you can imagine, they didn't last very long!
Find both the recipes for Fave Fritte and Campari Aperol below.
Ingredients (makes enough to store)
600g dried broad beans (fava beans, we use a variety called 'Cottoia' in my hometown, but any kind will do), preferably peeled
Sunflower oil, enough to deep fry the beans in batches
A few sprigs of dried rosemary and thyme (you can alternatively use any kind of dried herbs of your choice)
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
First things first, you need to soak the beans overnight in plenty cold water.
If they are peeled, great - you've saved yourself a bit of time! But if not, not to worry as the thick skin will easily come off on the next day. You'll also notice you can easily 'slice' the peeled beans in half lengthwise with a simple pressure between your fingers, as it is kinda like made of two parts that are held together.
Splitting the bean in half will make the frying process quicker and the snack crunchier, so it's worth the effort.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and throw in the beans to parboil for about 2 minutes. Do not boil for any longer than this as you don't want them to be cooked through. We just do this to reduce the amount of frying time and make them slightly lighter.
Rinse them well and spread them out on a flat surface to let them dry completely. This is an important step, otherwise the hot oil will splash all over when it touches the wet fava beans.
Heat the oil in a deep pan, adding about half of the sprigs of rosemary and thyme right away to flavour the oil. You will discard them at the end. Save the remaining half of herbs to add them at the end.
I used sunflower oil as the flavour is quite neutral, but you can also use canola, peanut or any kind of mild vegetable oil. Note: people love to use olive oil to deep fry in Sicily, but I prefer not to do so for a number of reasons:
Olive oil has a lower smoking point than most frying oils and as such it's a fairly unhealthy choice for deep frying.
While it tastes great in salads and on pretty much anything, its intense flavour will ultimately be overpowering, in my opinion, with fried foods.
It's also generally quite expensive so I wouldn't use it in such large amounts, to then discard it at the end.
Throw one bean in the oil to test the temperature and, as soon as it starts to sizzle, add the beans in batches. Because you have parboiled the beans, it should take only about 4-5 minutes for them to be cooked through. You know they are ready when they've changed colour and become slightly translucent.
Drain the fave beans with a slotted spoon and place them on kitchen paper to remove excess oil, then season them liberally with flaky salt, pepper and the remaining dried herbs. Toss to mix and enjoy!!
And now the Campari Spritz!!
2 parts Campari (or Aperol if you prefer)
3 parts prosecco (I like a 'brut' prosecco, which is the driest version, but up to you)
1 part soda water
Mix everything (in the above order) directly into a wine glass, and enjoy!