Beyond its donkey palio, Navelli in L’Aquila is famous to ‘gastros’ the world over for two autumn crops that enjoy its rich dark sticky soil. There’s the red gold better known as saffron (Lo Zafferano) and the local chickpeas, or ceci, which although smaller than average are sweet, nutty and a little bit spicy, the flavours of which combine divine to make its ‘Rainbow Pot’.
Gina Sarra is Navelli’s Queen of Saffron and here’s her adaption of an age-old Navelli stalwart. It’s a great autumnal dish, the colours from the rainbow chard mirror the tree foliage brightening the path to winter and chickpeas contain plenty of serotonin so for anyone suffering post-summer blues it’s the perfect pick-me-up feast. From current personal experience I would say it’s a great dish for new mums in that it’s not just that it’s easy to prepare but just knowing it’s got serotonin, even if it is just works psychosomatically, is a treat those looking for a pick up from lack of sleep!
Gina calls it Ratatouille but to me as an English speaker that is a French vegetarian aubergine based casserole so I’ve naughtily changed the name to Navelli’s Rainbow Pot as at the end from the combination of rainbow chard, chickpeas and saffron you hit gold in its combined flavours … bitter yet grassy and hay notes from the chard and the saffron playing off each other.
Navelli’s Rainbow Pot
300 g Dry Chickpeas (1 400 gm tin of pre-cooked)
100 g Pancetta
300 g Chard
1 Clove of Garlic
1 Packet of Saffron
Olive Oil & Salt
The night before you’re serving soak the chickpeas in cold water.
In the morning rinse and add water so that they are well covered, add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil, reducing to a simmer. Check frequently so that they don’t boil dry.
When the chickpeas are cooked take off the stove.
Cut the pancetta into small pieces and fry until browned.
Wash and cut the chard into small pieces along with the onion, carrot and garlic. Add first the onion, garlic and carrot and fry with the pancetta then add the chard and cook according to how al dente you like your vegetables.
Infuse the saffron into half an egg-cup of water.
When cooked, add the chickpeas and saffron to the pancetta and vegetable mixture and leave to stand covered for 5 minutes for the flavours to combine.
Serve hot or cold with crusty bread.