Vignarola – The Pilgrimage of Posh

The venerable vegetable stew known as Vignarola.  I have written about it before, yes I have.  I was prompted to do so again (vignarola mania?) because in today’s recipe I went to the added trouble of removing the outer sheath of the broad beans, an excercise in ‘poshifying’ the dish as it were, hence the title.
IMG_4701Simple ingredients, very grand finale.  I don’t know how many of you will go to the trouble of actually making a vignorala.  It is not at all difficult but it does take time.  I have tried to present the recipe to make it as time-friendly as possible.

Ingredients:

Two artichokes, preferably the Roman kind that are at their prime in this season (Spring).

Fresh peas

Fresh broadbeans /fava beans

Spring onions

Lettuce

Pancetta or guanciale – or neither if you are a vegetarian

Olive oil (evoo), salt and pepper

Fresh mint leaves

Let’s take a look at the ingredients.  I have placed them on the same plate so that you can get an idea of the proportions   Roughly speaking, one needs the same amount of all the vegetables

1What you see on this plate are two trimmed and sliced artichokes.
2 These are fresh peas.3 Here are the fresh broadbeans / fava beans.4 Here are the spring onions and the lettuce.5 On the far north of this photo is the guanciale, the pork jowl. In the middle of the photo is a ceramic decorative object known as a ‘pumo’.  It comes from Puglia and it is symbolic of good luck and the augury of all good things to come.  I stuck it in the middle of the plates because I associate the colour green with Spring and with the making of the green vignarola vegetables: artichokes, peas and broadbeans.7It is traditional to also add mint to the vignarola stew … here is some ordinary mint from a plant on my balcony.
8 This instead (again on my balcony) is the mint called ‘mentuccia romana’ … and pennyroyal in English.  Even my herbs have to be ‘royal’, you see, ha ha ha!  Mentuccia romana is the mint that is used to stuff braised artichokes in the recipe called ‘carciofi alla romana’.  I decided to use both kinds. And now on with the :

PREPPING

9

Here is the guanciale thickly sliced into a matchstick shape.
10 The roughly chopped spring onions …11 Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the broadbeans …
13Simmer the broadbeans for about 2 minutes, then drain and place in a bowl of iced or at least very cold water to cool them down.  Then arm yourself with a good deal of patience … or better still, find someone else to step in and help you … and get on with the job of removing the skin of the broadbeans.  One by one … Oh yes … it takes ages.

1Trim the artichokes.  This means removing the outer petals  of the globe; and then quarter each artichoke, and quarter again : i.e. cut into 8 pieces.  Once cut, the artichokes must immediately be placed in a bowl of water to avoid the oxygen in the air turning them black.  Every single recipe I have come across calls for lemon juice to be added to the water, and lemony water is what I always used too.   But I found out only recently that it actually isn’t necessary at all – the water is quite sufficient.  And now that we have everything in place … we can get cracking.

Step 1: Cooking the peas
14Dribble a generous amount of olive oil into a frying pan. I have a penchant for pepper corns and tinker them into nearly all my recipes.  Here, I put six pepper corns into the pan.  You may wish to avoid them altogether – you decide.
16 Turn on the heat, and put the peas in the pan.  Add one teaspoon of sugar.17 Add one teaspoon of salt over the sugar.18 Pour boiling water into the pan. Plenty of it … enough to cover the peas by 2 cm (an inch or so).19 Simmer until the peas are tender.  It took the better part of 20 minutes to cook these.  Peas done. Turn off heat, set aside.

Step 2:  Cooking the Guanciale19a 20 Use another frying pan to render the fat of the guanciale over a medium heat.  This takes about 2-3 minutes.21 Once the guanciale has crispened up a bit, add some olive oil.22 23 Now add the spring onions.  Cook for only a couple of minutes.

Step 3: Cooking the Artichokes

24 Now add the artichokes.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes …25 Remember the peas?  See how much cooking water there was? a kind of pea soup?

26Pour some of the pea soup using a sieve into the frying pan.
27 Keep cooking … the artichokes will need this liquid to become tender.28 The flame is quite high.30 Keep adding the pea soup, as required.31 When the artichokes are tender (push a fork through one of them to find out when) … it should take about 10 minutes or so from start to finish …32 Add the cooked peas.  Turn the heat down now.

Step 4: Wilting the lettuce

33 Put the lettuce where the peas had been (please notice I used up all the pea soup) bar a tiny amount.34 Cover with a lid and cook for about 1 minute.35Remove lid and add them to the big saucepan with the artichokes and peas.

Step 5: Bringing all the Pieces Together
36 Remember these?  Add the broadbeans to the big saucepan and use a wooden spoon to gently combine all the ingredients, cooking them for another couple of minutes.37 The two kinds of mint …38 Add the mint and then swirl some more olive oil over the vignarola. It is now ready to be served.39 40

The vignarola is best served at room temperature, not hot.  The heat tarnishes the taste somewhat.  As with many a stew, vignarola tastes even better the following day.

IMG_4702And as you can see, a posh, indeed regal, vignarola … can never be ‘dry’. And don’t forget the bread … to mop up the sauce afterwards.

The making of a vignarola is a kind of culinary pilgrimage, it must adhere to season and month when these vegetables pop up all together – April.  And so one harkens to Chaucer and to his Canterbury Tales and to the ‘pull’ of pilgrimages that this month sparks off.  What is tugging at your soul this Spring?

Buona primavera everyone!

Here is the start of the Prologue, in old English, a modern version follows …

1: Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
2: The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
3: And bathed every veyne in swich licour
4: Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
5: Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
6: Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
7: Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
8: Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
9: And smale foweles maken melodye,
10: That slepen al the nyght with open ye
11: (so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
12: Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,

Translation into Modern English:

When April with his showers sweet with fruit
The drought of March has pierced unto the root
And bathed each vein with liquor that has power
To generate therein and sire the flower;
When Zephyr also has, with his sweet breath,
Quickened again, in every holt and heath,
The tender shoots and buds, and the young sun
Into the Ram one half his course has run,
And many little birds make melody
That sleep through all the night with open eye
(So Nature pricks them on to ramp and rage)-
Then do folk long to go on pilgrimage …

pumiBecause … two pumi are better than one.

14 thoughts on “Vignarola – The Pilgrimage of Posh

  1. What…posh…I always peel the fave! OK…now you have my mouth watering…made this last year for the first time and we loved it! Psst…I used some leftovers on fresh pasta…added Pecorino and it was darned good. I don’t think I used the lettuce, but will this year! I all lettuce to my Roman peas and love them, with bread of course, for lunch! Just thinking about all those peas and fave we bought at the Trionfale Market almost two years ago. I actually enjoy shelling the peas and peeling the fave! Sit outside, feet up, glass of wine at hand and get into the “trance” of shelling! I should do it to music!

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    1. This was my first time too, Frank! And then I repeated the process a little while later on the occasion of a carciofi-based event. I got up at 7 a.m. to peel and braise 12 carciofi alla romana, and make the vignarola. It took me the better part of half an hour to skin/peel the defrosted broadbeans/fava beans. “why?” I kept asking myself …”why am I doing this?”. And then … a few hours later … when everyone was digging into the vignarola and even using bread to soak up the sauce .. it all made sense! That said .. I think good ol’ plain broadbeans are very very good (as long as they are young and fresh).

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  2. Hi, Josephine. What wonderful photos and what wonderful meals they suggest. I finally got around today to posting on my blog the information you sent me regarding Goethe on Italian food. Many thanks.

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  3. Hi…Thank you so much for the message re Selma, such a shame but her recipes will live on….a lovely legacy…. . The upside is it has bought me to your blog and this recipe sounds wonderful..not sure about the peeling of the beans but it’s probably worth the extra attention to detail and thank you again 🙂

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    1. Thank you for your kind words Carol … I don’t always peel the broad beans … I actually don’t mind them turning a bit brown. And I am sure there is no ‘need’ as such to peel them when they are super fresh. I have not been keeping up much with my blog these past few months … I do look forward to catching up soon ! All the best 🙂

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  4. We just got back from a farmer’s market about 12 miles from our home that we go to weekly. We were able to get ripe heirloom tomatoes and black russian kale so I’m happy.

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