Carciofi al limone e pepe nero, Campania
I love vegetables. I especially love to eat vegetables in season – they are cheaper, tastier and even better for you than their out-of-season counterparts. One of the great things about Italy is that people still remember when things are in season, and the greengrocers pretty much only stock what is best at that time apart from the Italian staples, such as tomatoes, which are now available all year.
December is when the first artichokes are ready, and although they are best in the early Spring I love them so much I start to eat them as soon as they arrive at the greengrocers on the corner of my street; and this is one of my favourite ways of preparing them – simple and tasty, with the sharp tang of the lemons and the spicy kick of the black pepper combining with the creaminess of the artichokes… mmmmmm heaven!
You will need (Serves 2)
Four to six medium sized artichokes (preferably the Paestum variety, but any will do)
One large clove of fresh garlic
The juice and zest of one large lemon (organic if possible, because you are using the zest)
A glass of dry white wine
A tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
Two teaspoonfuls of whole black peppercorns, slightly crushed
A desert spoonful of all purpose flour
Chopped parsley (optional)
Salt and extra black pepper to taste
Remove the hard outer layers from the artichokes and place the tender hearts in a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon juice. This will stop them from turning black. Keep the tender part of the stalks and discard the tough parts.
Roughly chop the stalks and crush the clove of garlic. Fry these gently in the olive oil, then when translucent add the peppercorns, followed by the artichokes with the lemon zest, half the lemon juice, half the wine, and one cup of the water with lemon used to conserve the artichoke hearts. Bring this to the boil, cover and simmer gently for ten minutes before removing the cover and allowing almost all the liquid to evaporate – this should take another five minutes, and the artichokes should now be tender enough to pull apart with a fork. If not, add a little more water and cover again.
Add the remaining wine and lemon juice as well as the flour and salt and pepper to taste, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. The lemon juice, wine and remaining cooking juices should combine with the flour to make a sauce – add more flour if you need to.
Your artichokes are now ready – serve them with fresh baked Italian focaccia as a delicious, light winter meal, or alongside a meat course as a side dish.