I am spoilt for choice when it comes to farmer’s markets. Every weekend there is at least one that is close to my home. My favorite however is the monthly market at the Collingwood Children’s farm. Set amongst the trees on the banks of the Yarra River, farmers sell their produce out of small trucks, tents or from the back of their cars. Everything from seasonal fruit, vegetables, nuts, breads, organic meats, cheeses. I love buying local chemical free vegetables, meat from happy animals that were allowed to roam the pasture or eggs produced by hens that run around the yard. This weekend I found the most delightful baby artichokes at the market.
Some were purple, most were green and importantly they were crisp and fresh. A very friendly Italian lady was selling them and came to chat to me whilst I collected handfuls of them. “Do you know how to trim them?” she asked. I replied that I did however she proceeded to show me nonetheless. She was very fast and with her super sharp knife, deftly cut away the stem, the hard outer part and the tips of the artichoke flower to reveal the tender pale green artichoke heart. I bought about 15 of them, not quite sure what I was going to make with them.
When I came home, I looked through Il tesoretto della cucina, my mother’s first cookbook that I had written about a few weeks ago. The book had a total of ten artichoke recipes. I selected a simple antipasto style dish that used baby artichokes. Being an old fashioned cookbook, there were no quantities (it was starting to sound very much like the way my mother cooks!). They were peeled, parboiled, stuffed then grilled. I improvised with the quantities for the filling and they worked out beautifully. My husband and I polished off all of them last night before dinner with an aperitif. They were tender, salty and very tasty with only a hint of artichoke bitterness at the end. It was a perfect way to enjoy these beautiful spring artichokes.
If you don’t know how to trim an artichoke, click here for a short clip. However in the video they cut off a lot of the top of the artichoke – when you have baby ones, you only need to cut off the tip. Baby artichokes don’t have a hairy choke that needs to be removed either. They are a lot quicker to peel than the large ones.
Tuscan style artichokes with anchovies
15 small artichokes (approximately), trimmed and halved
1 tablespoon (heaped) breadcrumbs
3 anchovies, finely chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
As you trim each artichoke, halve it and place the halves in a bowl of water in which you have squeezed some lemon juice. This will help prevent discoloration.
Place the artichokes in a pot of boiling salted water and boil for around four minutes. Drain and set aside. In the meantime, make the filling by placing the breadcrumbs, anchovies, parsley and pepper in a small bowl. Add a good glug of olive oil so that the filling binds together. Give it a good stir so that a thick paste forms.
Place around a quarter of a teaspoon (or less) of the paste in each the parboiled artichoke halves. Place them on an oven proof tray with the filling side up. Grill them on a low temperature (about 160 degrees Celsius) for 15 to 20 minutes until the filling is golden and crisp. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the cooked artichokes halves and serve while warm.