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

Ssimple spring vegetable dishes like this have always been a priority in our family. When we were on vacation in Sicily, I used to make a little stew with the long, curving greens trumpet gourd, which is sort of a cross between a zucchini and a squash. I would sauté it with onions and garlic, add some spinach and peas, cover with white wine and simmer for about 20 minutes.

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

It’s so simple, but the special thing is that the vegetables are cooked one after the other in olive oil and with very little water, so that each one tastes different. As the season progresses, you can take away some vegetables and add others, like spinach or Swiss chard, but preserve the essence of the dish by using good frozen broad beans and peas. I like to keep leftovers in the fridge to smash for a burrata and toast sandwich or reheat along with grilled chicken or steak.

For brunch one morning while on holiday in Puglia in the spring, I quickly made a vignarola with fresh peas and beans that I had bought along with some at the market Kohlrabi (beet tops). I toasted some bread, fried some eggs from the local farm, broke them up and mixed them into the veggies which I mashed up a bit and we ate out of bowls sat looking out to sea and it felt like quite a few of the best meal I had made in my life.

Served 6
lemon 1
artichokes 4 small
olive oil a little bit
spring onions 5, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh broad beans 200 g, encapsulated
fresh peas 200 g, encapsulated
fresh mint leaves 10

Flipping or cooking an artichoke is a bit fiddly, but not difficult. Remember that artichokes discolor very quickly. So once you’ve cut them, they must be placed straight into water acidified with lemon juice.

Prepare a large bowl of cold water. Halve a lemon, squeeze the juice into the water and add the lemon halves. Then, while you work, you can either dip the artichoke in the lemon water or simply use the halved lemons to rub directly onto the exposed surfaces.

Hold the artichoke in one hand, then work your way around it, breaking off and discarding the tough outer leaves from the base until you reach the tender, yellow leaves underneath. Cut off the bottom of the stalk and use a small paring knife to snip the filiform outer portion around the stalk down to the core. Cut and scrape the tough bits around the base of each artichoke.

Finally, use a sharp knife to snip the prickly tips from each of the remaining leaves, then slice across the top of the artichoke – snip off about 2cm – enough to remove the prickly tips and reveal the thrush inside.

Since the artichoke is actually a flower bud, the most important thing for it is to sprout its seeds, so even if it is cut off the plant at its stem, the thrush – or beard as I call it – will continue to grow and try to invade to develop a flower.

When the artichoke is freshly harvested or very small, the choke has hardly formed, but the longer it has been cut from the plant, or the older or larger it is, the more choke has developed. So you need to scoop this out with a teaspoon. The easiest way to do this is to first cut the artichokes in half lengthways. Once the artichokes are halved and the core removed, quarter them and place in the acidified water until ready to use.

Heat some olive oil in a pan, add the spring onions and sauté briefly. Drain the artichokes and add to the pan. Season, cover and cook for 2 minutes. Add the broad beans with a few tablespoons of water and cook for another 2 minutes, then add the peas and another 2 tablespoons of water. Cook for a further 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)

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