Fava beans are also known as broad beans, butter beans, English beans, and Windsor beans. They achieved notoriety in the movie, The Slience of the Lambs, as Hannibal Lector’s favorite side dish.
These instructions pertain only to fresh fava beans. Dried favas are treated differently. Dried favas are often sold in packages and handling and cooking instructions can usually be found on the package.
1. Remove the beans from the pods. You can split the pod by grasping the top stem and removing the string along the seam or just inserting your thumbs into the seam and prising it open.
2. You will then discover that the beans are covered by a white or lightly opaque membrane. This is usually also peeled off, though I’ve talked to many people who say they eat fava beans with this membrane intact. It is fibrous and can cause flatulence. I feel the taste of the fava bean itself is somewhat diminished by the membrane. But try a few this way and judge for yourself.
3. Either split the membrane with your fingers or gently open with the point of a knife. You can also drop the beans into boiling water for 30 seconds to a minute, drain them and then immerse them in an icy water bath. The membrane is softened and easier to peel. You can then just squeeze the bean from the skin–but carefully or you’ll be on you hands and knees looking for beans that have been catapulted from their casing.
4. You can also cook the membrane-intact beans in boiling, salted water for about 5 minutes. Drain and cool them, either in an icy water bath or just in the colander. Put into a serving bowl and eat, edamame-style, by sliding the bean between your teeth, pulling off the membrane while popping the bean into your mouth. This is done, I’m told, in Italy as a communal appetizer.
5. Once the beans are free of their pods and membranes they are ready to be used in recipes that call for fresh fava beans, as well as for edamame, fresh baby lima beans or sugar snap peas in the shell.