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Spring vegetable stew (Vignole)
With smoky prosciutto
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“This delicious Italian vegetable stew, packed with gorgeous greens, celebrates the arrival of spring ”
6 baby leeks , or 1 regular leek, outer leaves removed, cut into 8cm lengths, washed
200 g spinach or chard , picked and washed
extra virgin olive oil
1 small white onion , peeled and finely chopped
310 ml organic chicken stock
340 g podded fresh peas
4 thick slices quality prosciutto
1 small bunch fresh mint , leaves picked
1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley , leaves picked
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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 don’t have any chicken stock to 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 it, 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 the 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 the boil. Blanch the broad 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 back to the 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 flavoured them nicely.
Tear the leeks into strips and stir them into the peas with the roughly chopped spinach or chard, the artichokes and the broad beans. Bring back to simmering point and let all the vegetables stew together very slowly for about 10 more minutes.
Taste, season with salt and pepper, and stir in the chopped herbs and a good few lugs of olive oil before serving.