Sunday, 27 July 2014

Of Flowers & Funghi

Pilaf di Riso & Carciofini con Finferli
Baby Artichoke Pilau Rice with Chanterelles

What was going to be a simple supper turned out to be quite the feast this evening! With just 2 simple ingredients, I put together this elegant and delicious meal in just 45 minutes- not bad going for something so special, eh?

Chanterelles are in season, or so it seems here in Germany... in any case, the price was right and I picked myself a couple of handfuls out at the market yesterday. The sweet little baby artichokes were sitting right there next to them... so what was I to do? I grabbed myself 3 of those as well and headed home- happy and ready to cook!


I guess this shot will show you best of all how lovely and tender the baby artichokes were- just wonderful!

People always seem afraid to try their hands at the small ones- in fact, a couple of guys at the market yesterday asked me what to do with them and how to prepare them... and I suggested something like this to them too.


So- what did I need to make this lovely meal? Well, apart from 3 baby artichokes and 2 handfuls of chanterelle mushrooms, there was 1 cup of basmati rice, 1 small onion, 1/2 stick of celery, 1 Spring onion and a nice handful of fresh parsley.

It is a very modest meal actually, but as I keep on discovering... sometimes it is those simple things, prepared in the simplest manner that taste so much more impressive than you may ever have thought. And if they end up looking as lovely as this... well then- this is definitely the way to go!


Preparation is quite simple- but lets start with the trickiest part first- the artichokes.

First, pluck off the outer leaves- they are much too tough to eat anyway and then cut away the top half of the artichoke too... for the same reason! It may seem wasteful, but there is no point leaving that tough part attached and then throwing it away later!

Next, peel the stem if there is any attached, down to the bright green tender core- and rub all cut surfaces with lemon to stop them becoming discolored.

Now, cut the artichokes into quarters and cut out the "choke" in the middle, with 2 cuts- again, its better to cut away a little bit more rather than keep the part that you can not eat anyway.

The carrot, celery and the stalks of the parsley I chopped down as finely as possible and the onion I cut into thin slices.

I started off by stirring the carrot, onion, parsley stalk and celery mix, together with the rice, in just a little olive oil for 2-3 minutes and then added the artichoke pieces into my saucepan and seasoned them with salt and plenty of coarsely ground black pepper.


I then added enough boiling water to cover everything, brought it to the boil, reduced the temperature to a gentle simmer, put on the lid and let it bubble away for 10 minutes.


After 10 minutes, the water had been absorbed by the rice and it was half-way to being cooked. I sprinkled it generously with parsley, drizzled it lightly with olive oil, topped up the water a little and popped it back onto the heat for a further 5 minutes.


In the meantime, I got started on the chanterelles... no, that is not strictly true- as I actually started off with them before I began cooking, as they are always very dirty and always need a good wash!

How to wash them? No messing around- they go straight into the sink or a bowl filled with water and they get a good rub! People worry about them getting too wet before cooking- but if they survive torrential rain whilst they are in the forset, growing, they will be ok after 5 minutes in your sink! Wash them off twice until the water runs clear and then set them out to dry! That's why you do this well in advance... so you needn't worry about putting them into your frying pan soggy!

Indeed-I popped them into a dry frying pan and seasoned them with salt and pepper and kept them moving until the the salt began to draw their own moisture out of them and they began to slightly brown.


At that point, I added a little olive oil, the other half of the Spring onion and a little nutmeg- and tossed them together until the onion began to soften.


In the meantime, the rice had finished cooking in its own residual heat and the artichokes had become soft and tender, whilst giving their flavor, together with the onion,carrot and celery... and everything was ready to serve!


I added plenty more parsley and a squeeze of onion to both rice and mushrooms- just a little, to "raise" the flavor just a touch- but it makes all the difference!


So, as always, a light, healthy meal with a lot of great flavor and with not too much work! That's my idea of good cooking- that's the way I like to do it!

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