In early December in Australia, the Homestead vegetable garden is in a transitional phase. Too early for summer tomatoes and strawberries, but the artichoke bushes are still sprouting, just, and the tender thistles offer up an easy solution for dinner – stuffed artichokes in a tomato broth. This is something I can remember enjoying even as a very young child, picking apart the leaves and making a game of scraping the flesh off one by one with front teeth. Broth dripping from both elbows, this is just as fun now as it was then.
- 4 artichokes
- 3 large eggs
- 50g fresh breadcrumbs
- 50g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Small bunch of parsley - chopped
- ½ small onion – roughly chopped
- 4 tomatoes – roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Sprinkle of sea salt
To make the stuffing, combine the breadcrumbs and eggs in a large bowl and mix together. Add the grated Parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, and a sprinkle of salt, and continue to mix. The ingredients should bind together easily to form a ball if pressed. If your mixture is not coming together in this way, add an additional egg, and stir this through – the stuffing should come together following this addition if it was not sticky enough previously.
To prepare the artichokes, remove most of the stalk, and the toughest outer leaves. Tap the artichokes, tip first, against a hard surface, such as the kitchen bench-top, just to open these up a little and make more room for the stuffing.
Using a spoon, or your hands, place some stuffing in the centre of each artichoke, compacting this down and adding some additional stuffing between the open outer leaves.
The best pot to cook the artichokes in is one that will fit them snuggly standing upright. Once you’ve sized-up a suitable pot, heat the olive oil in this and fry the chopped onion until lightly browned. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir to combine with the onion. Now arrange the artichokes in the pot, doing your best to keep these propped upright against one another.
Carefully add water around the edge of the artichokes until it comes to just beneath the edge of the stuffing on top, then sprinkle a generous amount of salt through the water. Cover with a lid, turn the heat up under the pot, and bring to a boil. As soon as the water has boiled, turn the heat down to a simmer, (continuing to boil will displace the stuffing), and cook slowly for approximately one hour.
To test if the artichokes are cooked, pull on an outer leaf. If this comes away easily the artichokes are ready, if not, give them another 15 minutes simmering and test again. Especially large artichokes will of course take longer to cook.
To serve, place each artichoke in a bowl and spoon some broth over the top. Crusty bread for mopping the juices is delicious, kitchen roll for mopping up the mess is essential!