Crunchy Artichoke and Fresh Peas

I am slightly terrified of artichokes. They look like big, scary pinecones, and it’s hard to imagine which part of them could be edible. They also poke you a lot when you’re trying to get them ready.

artichoke

Try to choose an artichoke where the leaves are tucked close to the bulb – like this. If they’re sticking out they’re not as fresh. Also, don’t buy them if the stems are black. They were probably cut a long time ago.

When I’m preparing them, I often wonder who figured out that there was something so tasty inside. Whoever it was, I give them mega kudos, and I imagine the Italian culinary world does too, as ‘carciofi’ are one of the central parts of ‘la cucina d’Italia’.Right now, there are artichokes flying out of the market stalls. In Zürich, many of them actually come from Italy, and you can find them in all shapes and sizes.

My Mum used to prepare artichokes by steaming or boiling the whole vegetable. Then we would pull of the leaves and dip the fleshy part in vinniagarette, and scrape off the good stuff with our teeth. This is still a delicious, easy and fun way to eat them!

This recipe here is fairly time consuming but really highlights the properties of good, fresh produce. It would be a lovely starter to serve vegetarians (or meat eaters) at a party. Once again, it’s inspired by Ottolenghi’s book ‘Plenty’, a vegetable Bible. I picked up my ingredients at the Oerlikon Market.

Crunchy Artichoke and Fresh Peas

Serves 2 as a starter

crunchy artichoke and crushed peas

Ingredients

  • 250g peas (fresh are great but frozen also work really well)
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • black pepper
  • 2-3 globe artichokes
  • juice of 3 lemons, plus extra lemon to serve
  • 1 free-range egg, beaten
  • 20g breadcrumbs
  • 3 tbsp. chopped mint
  • 2 tbsp. chopped dill

Method

  1. Blanch the peas in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain, refresh under cold water and leave in colander to dry
  2. Put the peas in the food processor with garlic, 4 tbsp. olive oil, ½ tsp. salt and some black pepper. Crush with just a few pulses (you don’t want a purée). Set aside
  3. To prepare the artichokes, cut off most of the stalk and pull off the tough outer leavesArtichoke with outer leaves removed
  4. Once you reach the softer, pale leaves, take a sharp serrated knife and trim off the top so you are left with the base onlyartichoke with top chopped off
  5. Scrape it clean with a little sharp knife, remove any remaining tough leaves and the hairy choke (that’s the bit in the middle of the bulb. It’s really hairy and stringy. Get rid of that)Artichoke with choke removed
  6. Rub the rest all over with the juice of one of the lemons and place in a bowl of cold water
  7. Add the juice of one of the lemons and all the squeezed lemon halves
  8. Bring a medium saucepan of water to the boil. Carefully drop the artichoke hearts in the water and simmer for 7-10 minutes, or until a knife will pierce them easily
  9. Drain well and dry on a tea towel
  10. Place the artichoke hearts in a bowl with the beaten egg and mix well
  11. Spread the breadcrumbs on a plate and season with 1 tsp. salt
  12. Lift the artichokes from the bowl with a fork and into the breadcrumbs. Coat them in the crumbs
  13. Pour enough olive oil into a small saucepan to come 3cm up the sides and heat up until almost smoking
  14. Add a couple of artichokes at a time to the hot oil and fry for about 4 minutes, or until golden, turning them to colour evenly
  15. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper and sprinkle with a little salt
  16. Stir the chopped herbs and the juice of the third lemon into the crushed peas
  17. Spoon some over each serving plate. Place one or two artichoke pieces on top and spoon more crushed peas on top or around
  18. Finish with a drizzle of oilve oil and serve with a lemon half
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