Flavourful Flower Buds – Artichokes

 

Over the past few years, it’s been great to be on the scene of Melbourne’s evolving food culture. By far, one of the most rewarding changes has been in the embracing of Farmers markets into Australian consumer trends. The queues at the local farmers market are a tell-tale sign of a shift in our weekly grocery shopping habits. Customers are understanding the benefits of  buying local, supporting communities and industries, making healthier food choices and reducing environmental impacts. 

You may think it strange, but I was really happy to visit my local famers market last weekend and join the 20 minute queue at the entrance gate.  Why?? Well, unlike standing in the queue at the local supermarket, it was a pleasant experience. People were chatting happily, no-one seemed to be in a rush and everyone seemed to be enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. The weekend farmers market transforms grocery shopping from a chore, into a pleasant pastime.. an opportunity to reestablish relationships between producers and consumers. Most importantly, it’s an opportunity to put our money where our mouth is… and support our farmers!

Aside from the usual goodies available at the market, I was wrapped to find some fabulously fresh artichokes from Faranda Farm. I took them to my mums place…eager to discover the secret to making the best artichokes ever!! This is her recipe.

 

You will need:

4 artichokes
1/2 lemon
1 & 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup  peeled tomatoes, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt, plus a little extra
1 egg
2 spring onions, chopped

For the stuffing:

Combine the breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, garlic, salt, 2 tbsp of the olive oil,  and half of the tomatoes in a bowl. Add the egg and mix well. Set aside.

Preparing the artichokes:

Before you start work on the artichokes, you will need to prepare acidulated water. This prevents the artichokes from discolouring when cut. Fill a large bowl with water. Squeeze the lemon  juice into the water. Add the lemon skin too.
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Cut the heads of the artichoke from the stem. Leave the heads in the water while you continue to work with the stems.
The white centre of the stem is edible and flavourful. It is quite similar in flavour and texture to the artichoke heart. Use a small paring knife to peel away the stringy outer layer.

Place the stems in the acidulated water to keep them from discolouring.

Take the artichoke head, holding it firmly at the base, and whack it firmly 3-4 times on a chopping board. This will loosen the petals. Gently pry the petals apart. Sprinkle with a little salt. Divide the filling equally between the four artichokes. Push the filling between random petals, creating “pockets” of stuffing in each artichoke. There is no need to fit stuffing between all of the petals, a random scattering of stuffing will suffice. Repeat with the remaining artichokes.

Place the remaining oil and spring onions into a large pot. Chop the stems and quickly add them to the pot. At this stage, you will need to work quickly to prevent the chopped stems from discolouring.  Place the stuffed artichokes on top.

NOTE* The pot should be a snug fit for the four artichokes. See below.

 

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Scatter the remaining tomato over the artichokes. Place on a high heat.  Allow the contents of the pot to sauté for a few minutes. Do not stir.

Add half a cup of water and cover. Turn the heat down and simmer gently for 40 minutes, or until tender. Ensure that the pot does not run out of cooking liquid. Add more water if necessary.

Note: The artichoke stems at the bottom of the pot make a great pasta sauce. Simply add a knob of butter, and stir through some spaghetti or linguini. Buonissimo!!

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