© David Loftus
spring vegetable stew (vignole)
Vignole, or vignarola, is a Roman word to describe this incredible stew which is a celebration of spring. Please, please try it you will end up making it forever! If you dont have any chicken stock on hand, just use some of the water you cooked the beans, leeks, and chard in. You can leave the cooked prosciutto in or take it out before serving, as you like. This is absolutely lovely tossed into cooked, drained pasta. And you must try it with asparagus if you can.
Put the artichokes into a pot of cold salted water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 10 minutes or until tender (check by inserting a knife into the heart) and drain. Allow to cool, then peel back the outer leaves till you reach the pale tender ones, and remove the choke using a teaspoon. Tear the hearts into quarters.
Fill the pot with water again, add some salt, and bring to a boil. Blanch the fava beans for a minute, then remove from the water with a slotted spoon and drain. Blanch the leeks for 3 or 4 minutes, until tender, and the spinach or chard until just wilted.
Heat a large saucepan, big enough to hold all the ingredients, and add a good splash of oil. Cook the onion very gently for about 10 minutes, until soft, add the chicken stock and the peas, and bring to a boil. Lay the slices of prosciutto over the top and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, until the peas are cooked and soft and the prosciutto has flavored them nicely.
Tear the leeks into strips and stir them into the peas with the roughly chopped spinach or chard, the artichokes, and the fava beans. Bring back to simmering point and let all the vegetables stew together very slowly for about 10 more minutes. Chop the herbs.
Taste, season with salt and pepper, and stir in the chopped herbs and a good few glugs of extra virgin olive oil before serving.
4 small or violet artichokes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 oz shelled fresh baby fava beans
6 baby leeks, or 1 regular leek, outer leaves removed, cut into 3-inch lengths, washed
1/2 lb spinach or chard, picked and washed
extra virgin olive oil