Saturday, 30 November 2013

Getting Arty with the Chokes Part One

Zuppa di Carciofi, Mollica, Zenzero, Menta & Limone
Artichoke, Ginger, Mint, Lemon & Bread Crumb Soup

Yes, dear readers, I am back and must say I have missed you! I have missed having something nice to eat too if truth be told! And alas, my niggly tummy-troubles persist, but after almost 2 weeks of plain boiled rice, pasta and potatoes, I decided today that I need to at least TRY to eat more normally...

So I went out to the market hall again as I usually do- and already felt better once I got there- I sure have missed that place too! I picked up a selection of seasonal vegetables... amongst which were a lovely little, long-stemmed bunch of baby artichokes- irresistible! And as we know in Sicily, that the broth of boiled artichokes is nice and soothing for a poorly tummy, I decided they may well be a good idea for supper... but who knew that I would manage to make 2 lovely dishes from just 4 little artichokes! And this is the first of them right here... a super- simple soup! Perfect on a cold, Winter evening!

To make this soup, I trimmed the top half of the artichokes off and cut off the long stalks. I noticed the the stalks on these beauties were particularly young, juicy and tender and so I peeled them, generously cutting away the outer, fibrous skin, then cut them into small bite-sized pieces and added them straight into a small saucepan of boiling water. They are a little tougher than the artichokes themselves, so the extra 10 minutes or so that it would take to clean the chokes was time well spent for the stalks to simmer away in! I had just enough water in the saucepan to cover the artichokes comfortably.

I plucked off the tough, outer leaves and then peeled down towards the stem end, cutting right down to the juicy flesh of the artichoke... the less tough-stuff you leave on, the more pleasant they will be to eat of course! So today I cut the leaves right down to the juiciest part too. Next, I split them in half and generously cut away the "choke" from the center and immediately placed the cut artichokes, cut-side-down into a bowl containing the juice of 1 lemon, to keep them from oxidizing and turning brown.

Once all of the artichokes were cleaned up, I added them (8 halves in all), together with 3-4 slices of ginger, 1 clove of garlic, 1 tablespoon of dried mint and the half of the juice into the boiling water containing the artichoke stems. I seasoned with salt and pepper and let them simmer away for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, the artichoke hearts were soft and tender, and so I removed them and set them to one side. I also removed the ginger slices as they had done their work and began slowly, to sprinkle bread crumbs into the broth, constantly stirring, until it began to thicken. I added a little salt and pepper to the broth
as necessary, then just a hint of nutmeg and let it simmer on for a further 10 minutes.

By this time the bread crumbs had dissolved right down into the broth and thickened it up nicely. And sure, this is a rustic dish, based on the kinds of dishes people would have made after the depression, using slices of stale bread... but the bottom line is- it sure is tasty and filling and that is a good thing even nowadays!

If the soup isn't thick enough for your liking, obviously, you need to add more bread crumbs- and vice-versa, if it is too thick, more water. I added one half of an artichoke heart, cut up into small pieces and a light drizzle of olive oil- all it needed now was a grind of fresh pepper and it was ready to serve!

I had to do without the extra pepper this evening on account of my tummy- but go ahead- or even add a little dried chili or Tabasco- both would go nicely with this! But whichever way you choose to eat it- enjoy! This is good, simple, honest food- and what's not to like about that?

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