Today’s recipe features fresh artichokes, which is a vegetable I used to be scared off for a long time. If you haven’t grown up eating them, I think it’s a pretty common reaction as even though they are beautiful, they also look a bit menacing, don’t they? They remind me of a cactus (some of them have sharp prongs at the top of their leaves) and, in fact, apparently the cactus family is where they were thought to have come from. Later on, it turned out that they are distant relatives of thistles, phew! I have eaten artichokes before, but all I had to do was open a jar I got from an Italian deli, I never tackled them myself. I do like their unique taste so when I saw them popping up in green grocers all over the island, I got a bit curious.
We have this tiny vegetable stall by the road to our house, which is run by a lovely Greek lady and her son and they sell locally grown (literally 500 meters away) produce. We stopped there to buy some broccoli and saw that they had fresh artichokes that day. The lady owner must have seen me looking at them with a mix of trepidation and curiosity and she simply took one out and showed me, step by step, how to prepare it for cooking. Even though communication was difficult as my Greek is nowhere near where it should be and her English is basic, it was so lovely of her and I cooked them according to her instructions as soon as I got home. They were delicious and tasted so much nicer than the ones you get in a jar and now I keep on going back for more. So, if you are feeling adventurous, try to find fresh artichokes for this salad, otherwise visiting your local Italian deli should do the trick too.
- serves: 4
- 2 cups of (dry) lentils (I used green)
- 3 fresh artichokes* + 1 lemon
- 3 red peppers
- small bunch of rocket, chopped
- handful of parsley, finely chopped
- handful of walnuts, chopped
- 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 4 tbsp olive oil + more for roasting
- 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
- black pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to 200° C / 400° F.
- Prepare a bowl of cold water with juice of ½ lemon and keep the other half a lemon at hand. Start preparing the artichokes* following the steps below:
- STEP 1 Cut off about 1/3 off the head and discard. If your artichokes have spikes, cut off top part of the leaves with kitchen scissors.
- STEP 2 Rub a bit of lemon into any newly exposed flesh moving onward (this slows down the oxidisation process).
- STEP 3 Pluck off all of the tough outer leaves – keep on plucking until you get to the young, tender leaves. Tidy up the left over bits of the leaves with a knife.
- STEP 4 Using a speed-peeler (or a pairing knife), peel the outer tough skin off the stem, the soft inside is edible and tasty.
- STEP 5 Cut the artichoke in half to reveal the inedible part, called ‘the choke’. It is a hairy bit growing out of a moon-shaped base.
- STEP 6 Using a teaspoon and/or a pairing knife, remove the choke completely and discard. Plunge the cleaned-up artichoke and its stem in a bowl of lemon water.