If you're expecting vegetarian guests for dinner, they would be very happy with this dish as a starter. This is also delicious served with fish. You can use whatever young summer vegetables you like from the selection below or you could also add cooked globe artichokes or young carrots.
200ml or so of vegetable stock
4 bulbs of baby fennel
80g podded weight of peas
100-120g podded weight of broad beans
6-8 young leeks
For the sauce
2 medium shallots, peeled, finely chopped
100ml dry white wine
1tbsp double cream
180-200g cold unsalted butter, diced
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1tbsp chopped chives
Any green ferns from the fennel, chopped
Lemon juice (optional)
Cook the fennel in the vegetable stock until tender; remove with a slotted spoon to a plate. Use the same water to cook the peas, broad beans and leeks, reserving the stock. Remove the outer skin from the large broad beans if you wish and halve or quarter the fennel bulbs depending on the size, or leave them whole.
To make the sauce, put the shallots in a pan with the wine and the reserved stock, bring to the boil and simmer until there is about a tablespoon of the liquid left. Add the cream, bring back to the boil, remove from the heat and whisk in the butter until the sauce is emulsified. Season to taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice if you wish. To serve, gently heat the vegetables in the sauce with the chives and fennel tops, but don't boil the sauce as it may separate. Serve in deep soup plates or pasta-type bowls.