Starters

Farro with broadbeans, peas, asparagus and spinach

Serves 4

I am currently having a small and intense love affair with a grain called farro. It's rarely seen or used here, but is well-loved in Italy and has been a crucial part of traditional cooking in parts of central and southern Italy since Roman times. Farro has a delicate, nutty flavour and an almost ancient feel to it. It's both chewy and tender and is delicious served hot or cold.

This simple, seasonal, late-spring salad can be offered as part of an antipasto, perhaps with a bowl of knobbly black olives and some Parma ham or top-notch salami.

Serves 460g/2 oz cooked broadbeans
8 asparagus spears, quickly blanched
60g/2 oz cooked peas
125g/4oz cooked spinach
250g/8oz cooked farro
4tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

As a rule of thumb, vegetables that grow above the ground should be dropped into boiling, well-salted water, while vegetables that grow below the ground should go into cold water. Broadbeans need no more than a minute in boiling water – asparagus the same. Peas need a minute or so more. I prefer not to refresh cooked vegetables under running water, but to dress them quickly while still warm. I believe that this gives them a better flavour.

Cook the spinach by simply rinsing well in cold water and placing a dry pan over a low heat – the water that clings to the leaves is enough to create steam to wilt the spinach. Once wilted, remove quickly and drain in a colander.

I always double-pod broadbeans; l do not find the pale, tough, outer skin pleasant to eat. It's extra work, but well worth it. Place the farro, spinach, peas, broadbeans and asparagus into a bowl and dress with olive oil and lemon.

Season with seasalt and black pepper and toss together lightly with your fingers. Again, serve quickly while the flavours are fresh.

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