Vegetables

Giorgio Locatelli’s recipe for vignarola – braised spring vegetables | Easter

Simple springtime vegetable dishes like this have always figured highly in our family. When we were on holiday in Sicily, I used to make a little stew with the long, bendy, green zucca trombetta, which is a kind of cross between a courgette and a pumpkin. I would sauté it with onions and garlic, add some spinach and peas, cover it with white wine and simmer it for 20 minutes or so.

Vignarola is simply a celebration of that moment in spring when you have an abundance of beautiful artichokes, and the first of the broad beans and peas.

It is so simple, but what makes it special is that the vegetables are cooked one after the other in olive oil and with the tiniest amount of water, so that each one tastes totally of itself. As the season goes on you can take some vegetables away and add others, such as spinach or chard, but keep the essence of the dish by using good frozen broad beans and peas. I like to have any that is left over in the fridge to smash up for a sandwich, with burrata and toasted bread, or warm up alongside some grilled chicken or steak.

One morning on holiday in Puglia in the spring, for brunch I made a vignarola quickly with fresh peas and beans I had bought in the market along with some cime di rapa (turnip tops). I toasted some bread, fried a couple of local farm eggs, broke them up and mixed them into the vegetables, which I crushed a little bit, and we ate from bowls, sitting looking out at the sea, and it felt like some of the best food I had made in my life.

Serves 6
lemon One
artichokes 4 small
olive oil a little
spring onions 5, chopped
sea ​​salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh broad beans 200g, podded
fresh peas 200g, podded
fresh mint leaves 10

“Turning” or preparing an artichoke is a little fiddly, but not difficult. The thing to remember is that artichokes discolour very quickly, so once you cut them, they need to go straight into water that has been acidulated with lemon juice.

Have ready a big bowl of cold water. Cut a lemon in half, squeeze the juice into the water, then put the halves of lemon in, too. Then as you work, you can either dip the artichoke into the lemon water or just use the halved lemons to rub directly on to the exposed surfaces.

Hold the artichoke in one hand, then work your way around it snapping off and discarding the hard outer leaves from the base, until you reach the tender, yellow leaves underneath. Cut off the bottom of the stalk, and with a small paring knife, trim off the stringy outside part all the way around the stalk, back to the core. Trim and scrape away the hard pieces around the base of each artichoke.

Finally trim off the spiky tops of each of the leaves that are left using a sharp knife, then slice across the very top of the artichoke – take off about 2cm – enough to remove the spiky tops and reveal the choke inside.

Because the artichoke is actually a flower bud, the most important thing for it to do is to put out its seeds, so even when it is cut by its stalk off the plant, the choke – or beard, as I call it – will continue to grow, trying to develop into a flower.

If the artichoke has been freshly harvested or is very small, the choke will barely have formed, but the longer it has been cut from the plant, or the older or bigger it is, the more the choke will have developed. So you need to scoop this out with a teaspoon. The easiest way to do this is to slice the artichokes in half lengthways first. As soon as the artichokes are sliced ​​in half and the chokes removed, cut them into quarters and keep them in the acidulated water until you are ready to use them.

Heat a little olive oil in a pan, add the spring onions and cook briefly. Drain the artichokes and add to the pan. Season, cover and cook for 2 minutes. Add the broad beans with a couple of tablespoons of water and cook for another 2 minutes, then add the peas, plus another 2 tablespoons of water. Cook for another 2 minutes, adding a little more water if necessary. Each vegetable should now be tender and the water should have been absorbed.

Finish with the mint leaves. Eat warm or cold.

From Made at Home by Giorgio Locatelli (HarperCollins, £26)

About the author

Getprofitam

Leave a Comment