Contadina's Blog

Living the contadini life among the olive groves

A windy start to the year January 7, 2012

Filed under: Garden,Recipes — contadina @ 4:49 pm

It’s been a pretty wild and windy start to the New Year for us down in the heel. Walking up the lane with the dogs earlier I spotted countless almond and ancient olive trees, which have cracked and lost branches in the strong winds we had yesterday and one olive tree had become completely uprooted.

This highlights the importance of pruning the trees well and regularly feeding them. It could be coincidence, but the damaged trees were either on land regularly poisoned with weedkiller or they were on abandoned land, where the trees are large and unwieldy. Abandoned trees become too dense at the top causing too much wind resistance.

The only damage we suffered was a rather large split in our three-year old mimosa tree. Finger’s crossed though, some rather swift action with some grafting paste, an old rag to bandage the wound and a haircut should save the tree.

Gaia inspects the damage

One the subject of wind, we’re now into the fartichoke….er…artichoke season…

The artichokes, which grow so well here are the best I’ve ever tasted and Carciofo Brindisino (globe artichokes from the Brindisi region) recently received PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status. Our Christmas visitors from London were astounded by the price of them in the market €2 for 10; apparently it’s more like 2 for 10 in the UK.

For Jane and Jules and anyone else who is interested, here is a little tutorial on preparing artichokes hearts to be used in a variety of recipes.

First wash your artichoke, then cut off the stem (you can still eat the stem, but not today we won’t).

Preparing artichoke part 1

Then cut the artichoke just below the halfway mark (you can cut it a wee bit higher but you run the risk of including inedible stringy bits in your finished dish).

Preparing artichoke part 2

Then break off the tough outer leaves (once again, don’t be shy to take off more than you think as you really don’t want any tough, scratchy bits remaining).

Preparing artichoke part 3

Next cut it into quarters. If there is no hairy heart pop them into water, which contains the juice of half a lemon to stop them turning black.

Preparing artichoke part 4

If there is a hairy choke, cut it out before popping it in the water. Smaller artichokes, when fresh, don’t always have a hairy choke.

Boil enough water to cover the artichoke hearts with the juice of the other half of lemon and pop the artichoke hearts in and boil for a few minutes if you are using small artichokes and about 10 minutes for larger ones.

Drain and leave to cool, before either popping under oil as anti-pasti (great for putting on pizzas and in salads too), dipping in batter and frying tempura style or chopping or using whole in any other recipes.

To serve whole, cut the tough tips of the leaves off with scissors, holding the stalk to keep the artichoke steady. Using a knife, slice the base off, so that it will sit upright, before trimming off the pointed top (the younger the artichoke, the less you’ll need to cut off). Pull the pale centre leaves out, and then scoop the choke out with a spoon, without disturbing the heart underneath.

As before, drop each one in a bowl of water to which lemon juice has been added. Cook them in a pan of boiling salted water for 35-45 minutes (when they’re ready you should easily be able to pull out a leaf). Drain upside down.

To eat pull the leaves off and dip them in hollandaise sauce, garlic mayo, melted butter or garlic butter etc, drawing the leaf through your teeth to remove the tender flesh before discarding the rest.


4 Responses to “A windy start to the year”

  1. Mike Says:

    I’m glad to hear that the wind did not damage the trees on your property too much…we get some pretty ugly windstorms were I live as well and they often do a fair amount of damage. I enjoyed the tutorial on artichokes, I have never eaten fresh chokes before so it was interesting to see how you prepared them.

  2. contadina Says:

    Thanks Mike, I remember the tree which crashed into your house. Reckon you could probably grow artichokes if you used a lot of protection, as they are not very hardy.

  3. ohiofarmgirl Says:

    hey Contadina! here is an odd request for you….. do you know Rome very well? i know some people who are traveling there now and they have a flat by the Vatican. they have kids and want to find a restaurant nearby and arent having much luck. any tips for dining with kids there? you can always email me at ohiofarmg at gmail (note its ohiofarmG not “girl”).

    thanks for any advice!!!
    ps you dont have to post this on your blog

  4. contadina Says:

    I’ve sent a message to a couple of friends in Rome and will drop you an email as soon as they reply. As rule in Italy though, all restaurants are child-friendly and there is no such thing as separate menus for children,

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