Finally spring! Frankly we’ve had enough of cavolo nero and cabbage, and long for the fresh flavours of the new season, like freshly podded peas and broad-beans, and the king of vegetables that is artichoke… To celebrate spring we have created a menu that takes in all the flavours of the season, using oils to match. This is a meal for consenting adults only, combining the freshness of the new season, bold flavours and a lot of garlic. It is also mostly vegetarian.
Broad-bean hummus with gremolala of feta & olive inspired by a similar dish in Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques, as a central dip and
Braised fennel with capers and olives as found in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More – this dish oozes full flavours. As the fennel softens, it gets infused with the classic mediterranean scents of garlic, tomatoes, olives and capers. Served with a little fresh ricotta to add a soft saltiness, it is a very satisfying starter, that contrasts the freshness of broad-bean hummus, which is rich in garlic, and has a tangy feta gremolata, adding an extra high note.
For the hummus we used: S’Ciappau from Paolo Cassini. An amazing 100% Taggiasca from the Ligurian hillsides with an incredibly high polyphenol content.
For the Fennel, we used: monocultivar Lea from the Gregori brothers in the Marche. New to our portfolio, these guys are desperately hard working and precise. We love their interpretation of Lea, made only by 5 or 6 producers in the Tesino valley as it stretches down towards the Adriatic sea. Rich in polyphenols, it pairs well with pulses, nuts and fully flavoured vegetables.
We drank: Zanotto Rude Col Fondo. Out there and interesting bottle fermented sparkling wine.
Mixing black rice & farro gives nuttiness, depth and and a visually very satisfying base to any dish. The rice and the farro are cooked separately in a risotto method with onions, bay and a little chilli, then combined later when plating. The vegetarian main option was Vignarola (pictured), a wonderful Roman spring vegetable stew, that can only be cooked for a very short period, when artichokes, broad-beans and fresh peas are all available at the same time. We wrote about Vignarola in the past and it’s a dish that is easier than it looks, although it needs attention, and one that can be really cooked to personal taste. As a classic roman dish, it is growing in popularity and can be eaten with soft cheese or as a starter by itself. The non veggie option was tangerine infused seabass, again inspired and adapted by Suzanne Goin’s recipe in the stunning Sunday Suppers at Lucques. In Italy the seabass we get is much smaller than the cold water ones in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, so we need to be more gentle with the amount of marinade, but end of season tangerines have an extra sweetness, that balances beautifully with the black rice & farro bed on which it is plated. The original recipe calls for pea-shoots to be added, but they were not available (not quite in season yet), so we mixed in some fresh tarragon from the garden.
For the Vignarola we used Frantoi Cutrera Primo Bio. We have recently switched to the ‘organic’ version of Primo. Same great, classic Sicilian style bursting with tomato leaf and decisive wild herbs but with the added certification of its organic olives.
For the Seabass we used Frantoio Librandi Carolea, which is a delicious delicate olive oil from the organic Librandi estate in Calabria that recalls the fresh olive and features sage and pine nut in fine balance.
We drank: San Polino Helichrysum Brunello di Montalcino 2012. Epic, majestic and very well judged from this beautiful biodynamic estate.
This is a super luscious, dark, adult cake, that infuses the richness of chocolate and nuttiness of olive oil, served with a bit of sour cream. It’s a perfect ending to a long healthy spring meal.
We used: De Carlo’s Il Classico, the ideal butter substitute!
Nothing can really be prepped in advance in this meal, so give you self an early start and plan the sequence well. Start by marinating the fish, then do the cake, and when it’s in the oven, cook the rice & the farro at the same time. Pod the broad beans (it always takes much longer than you remember), and the peas. Then start working on the braised fennel dish, then the vignarola, and when the starters are finished you can cook the fish. There are no particularly complicated passages, but you need to keep your pace up, since there is a lot to do!