Early Spring Stew with Baked Ricotta
This is what I make when I feel like eating something green and vibrant, but the green tide of spring hasn’t yet arrived. I use frozen peas and fava beans. (I double-pod mine, which I know takes ages, so there is no need to if you are in a hurry. To double-pod the frozen ones you’ll need to leave them in a bowl of boiling water for a few minutes before you can pop them out of their little pods.)
Use whatever soft green herbs you can get your hands on: I like a combination of something heady, like mint or basil, something fragrant like tarragon, and something more neutral like parsley. But you could really use any soft herb you have and this is a great way of using up the end of a few bunches. I use a generous amount of oil here, as it adds a butteriness and a peppery kick to the final dish; you can add it bit by bit and stop when it tastes good to you.
- 1 pound (500 g) baby new potatoes
- 1 × 1-cup (250-g) tub of ricotta
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup (100 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for cooking
- 2 unwaxed lemons
- a large bunch of basil, leaves picked
- 2 heads of small lettuce, such as Baby Cos or Little Gem
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon golden honey
- a bunch of scallions, finely chopped
- 4 1/2 cups (1 liter) good vegetable stock
- 10.5-ounce (300-g) bag frozen fava beans or 2 pounds (900 g) fresh, unpodded weight
- 1/2 pound (200 g) frozen peas 4 cups (600 g) fresh, unpodded weight
- a couple of bunches of soft herbs, leaves only, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 395ºF (200ºC). Halve or quarter any larger potatoes and place them on a baking sheet. Make a space in the middle for the ricotta, then upturn the tub of ricotta onto the tray so that it sits in a little mound in the middle.
Season everything with salt and pepper and drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil. Use a spoon to turn the potatoes over to make sure they are coated in the oil and seasonings, then grate over the zest of the lemons, making sure there is plenty of zest on top of the ricotta. Scatter over half the basil leaves. Put the baking sheet into the hot oven to cook for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut your lettuce into 4 wedges and put them on another baking sheet. In a small bowl, mix together the juice of half a lemon, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the mustard, honey, and a good pinch of salt and grind of pepper. Pour the dressing over the lettuce wedges and use your hands to coat them really well. Once the potatoes have had their 20 minutes, add the tray of lettuce to the oven and cook everything for another 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are brown and the lettuce is charred at the edges, then take them out of the oven.
Meanwhile, in a large deep saucepan with a lid, heat a little olive oil over medium heat, add the chopped scallions, and cook for a couple of minutes until brown at the edges. Add the stock and the olive oil and bring to a boil. Taste the stock, and if you think it needs it, add a little seasoning.
Add the fava beans and peas to the broth and cook for a minute or two, then stir through half the chopped herbs and take off the heat.
To serve, divide the potatoes and lettuce among four bowls, top with the broth, then break or spoon over the ricotta, the rest of the herbs, and a drizzle of oil.