- 2 x 400 g tins of quality plum tomatoes
- 1 onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 stick of celery
- ½ a bunch of fresh basil , (15g)
- ½ a bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley , (15g)
- 6 Italian violet artichokes
- 2 lemons , for artichoke prep
- 200 g plain flour
- 4 large free-range eggs
- 400 g lean minced beef
- 1 pinch of dried red chilli flakes
- vegetable oil , for frying
Put a casserole pan that will snugly fit the artichokes later on a medium- high heat. Scrunch in the tomatoes through your clean hands, then pour in 2 tins’ worth of water. Peel and finely chop the onion, garlic and celery. Finely chop half the basil leaves and half the parsley (stalks and all). Stir it all into the pan, simmer for 30 minutes to thicken and reduce the sauce, then taste and season to perfection.
Meanwhile, prep the artichokes (see tip), then quarter each one lengthways, dropping the pieces back into the lemon water. Put the flour into a shallow bowl, and beat 2 eggs in another shallow bowl. Place the mince in a bowl with the chilli flakes and a good pinch of sea salt, and crack in the remaining 2 eggs. Finely chop the remaining basil leaves and parsley, add to the bowl, then scrunch and mix together, and divide into eight. Take one piece, then press and hug 3 artichoke quarters together around it, packing and squeezing it back into its original shape. Roll it in the flour, dunk it in the beaten egg, letting any excess drip off, then pop on a tray ready to fry. Repeat until you have 8 re-formed artichokes.
Meanwhile, pour 5cm of vegetable oil into a large, sturdy, deep-sided pan on a high heat. Get it to 160ºC on a thermometer, then gently lower all 8 artichokes into the oil – they’ll pack it out. Fry for 10 minutes, or until golden, then use a slotted spoon to lift them into the sauce. Reduce to a medium-low heat, simmer for 10 minutes, turning halfway, then serve.
Prepping artichokes is a wonderfully brilliant, thoughtful ritual to partake in and, I find, a very calming process. The instructions below will help you prepare Italian violet artichokes, which I use throughout this book. Also, if you have a plot of land, growing artichokes is beyond easy, they look extraordinary and their yield is pretty high. Bearing in mind they can be expensive to buy, growing your own could be win–win. Try and give your artichokes a little squeeze before you buy them to check they’re nice and firm and at their best.
Squeeze the juice from a few lemons into a big bowl of cold water, dropping the squeezed lemon halves into the bowl as you go, but keeping 1 halved lemon out so you can use it to rub the artichokes as you prep them. Artichokes oxidize and discolour super-quickly once exposed to air, so it’s important to rub them with acid as you go, keeping them submerged in lemon water thereafter.
One artichoke at a time, click off the outer leaves – about half in total – until you get to the paler, yellowy- white, more tender ones. With a sharp knife, trim 5cm below and above the base of the choke, rubbing the exposed cuts with lemon as you go. Use a small sharp knife or speed-peeler to peel the base and stalk, revealing the soft flesh underneath. Rub it all over with one of your lemon halves.
Get a teaspoon, insert it into the middle of the leaves, then turn and scrape it to remove the inner, fluffy choke – look inside to check you’ve done an accurate job. Once done, simply squeeze in some lemon juice.
At this point you can use them whole, halve or quarter them as your recipe calls for, or, of course, slice, dice or do whatever you want with them! The possibilities are endless.
Source: Jamie Oliver