"One of Australia’s favourite chefs Stefano Manfredi adores spring because it heralds a glorious symphony vegetables that, when braised, absolutely sing with flavour. A classic Roman spring dish, la vignarola uses lettuce as a vegetable, along with the most tender new spring produce you can find. The respected Italian cooking writer Marcella Hazan referred to this dish as 'the most ravishing of vegetable dishes'. She’s absolutely correct." Maeve O'Meara, Food Safari Earth
A fresh and vibrant springtime stew from the kitchens of Rome, la vignarola makes the best of the season's produce.
- 4 small Spring artichokes before choke has formed, outer leaves removed
- 1 lemon
- 200 g unshelled fresh peas
- 300 g un-podded broad beans
- 1 baby gem lettuce, outer leaves trimmed
- 100 g green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 cm pieces
- 4 asparagus spears, woody ends trimmed and cut into 3 cm pieces
- 4-6 chard leaves, stems thinly sliced and leaves cut in thin strips
- 125 ml (½ cup) extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
- 3 spring onions, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 green chillies, or to taste, seeded and finely chopped
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- grated pecorino or parmesan
- finely chopped chives and fennel tops
- grilled polenta or crusty bread
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Serves 6-8 as a first course
Trim the artichokes, then thinly slice lengthways, placing the slices into a large bowl of water that’s had the juice of the lemon squeezed into it as you go. The acidulated water prevents the artichokes from browning.
Shell the peas and double pod the broad beans. Cut the lettuce into thin wedges from top to bottom.
Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan over low heat. Lightly fry the spring onion, garlic and chilli until softened. Drain the artichokes well, then add to the pan with the peas and broad beans and add enough water to just cover. Once the water comes to the boil, add a couple of good pinches of salt and the green beans. Boil for another 6-8 minutes. Add the asparagus, chard and lettuce wedges. Stir well and simmer for 15 minutes or until the lettuce is tender. If the water has evaporated too much just add a little more. There should be 2-3 tablespoons of flavoursome juice when finished. It shouldn’t be watery.
Check the seasoning, adding some pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, then scatter with grated cheese, chives and fennel tops. Serve by itself with crusty bread or grilled polenta.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Emma Warren. Creative concept by Belinda So.