Artichokes with Broad Beans and Peas

The seasonality of food has always been the way most Greeks cook by. By this I mean that at certain times of the year a given type of food is at its freshest and so tends to be tastier and more nutritious. Consequently, it tends to be less expensive to buy as well. I remember when I first arrived in New York and spotted some watermelons in a super market window and thought to myself as it was still March, ‘indeed this is the land of plenty were you can have anything you want!’ Only to be disappointed when I ate a piece of the watermelon later.


my outdoor bliss

Spring time is very special time for me as artichokes are in season and soon after broad beans are also ready to be eaten. This time is especially beautiful as the fire flies are teeming the countryside and you have nature’s nightly disco on display! My mother makes a dish with these 2 ingredients that has a history as old as Greece itself. Both originating around the Mediterranean, with most of the southern Europeans feasting on them when they’re in season. Broad beans have been cultivated 8000 years ago if not before, while the artichoke were cultivated in Sicily when the Greeks controlled most of that island which was part of Magna Grecia. Artichokes are actually a flower bud – if allowed to flower, blossoms measure up to seven inches in diameter and are a violet-blue color. Artichokes are a close relative to the thistle.


Artichokes in bloom after the harvest

When the hotel opens in May, we often serve this dish to our hotel guests and although most of them have never tried it before while some have never even heard of it; once they cautiously taste it, they are soon converted by its succulent flavours.

The following recipe is simple enough but finding the ingredients should you not be living around the Mediterranean will be a quest in itself! Of course, you can make it with frozen artichokes and frozen broad beans but I would say you lose more than half the flavour and aroma of the dish not to mention most of the nutrients. Maybe that’s why I love it so much, I can only have it around the month of May. But I adore this dish so much that I would have my mother make it even out of season, but not often!

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil
½ onion, chopped
2 spring onions (scallion) roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, roughly sliced
⅔ cup (150 grams) chopped fresh fennel, use the erect green leaves rather than the bulb
¼ cup (59 ml) chopped fresh dill
1 cup water
Seasoning of pepper and salt
10 artichokes hearts, cut in half
1 lb/ 500g broad beans (fava beans) from the pod, pierce so they will not explode
pinch ground nutmeg
pinch of oregano
2 potatoes, quartered
1 ½ cups of water
Peas, frozen is fine

Preparation:

To prepare the artichokes, remove the outer leaves of each artichoke revealing the pale inner heart and cut off the stem. Open the inner heart and using a teaspoon remove the hairy choke from each artichoke. Halve the artichoke heart.

Theodora’s Tip… To prevent artichokes from going black before cooking but after they have been prepared, rub them with a halved lemon, then keep them submerged in a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon juice added, until you are ready to use them.

Place onions, olive oil, green onions, garlic, fennel, dill and 1 cup of water in a deep sauté pan (one with a large flat heating surface and large sides). Braise for 10 minutes so that the dill and fennel will cook well, Theodora told me that you should cook until soft. She also uses these fresh from her garden so they are extra aromatic. Cook until most of the water evaporates.

Stir in artichokes hearts, broad beans, potatoes, 1 ½ cups of water, pinch of nutmeg & oregano and cook for 30 minutes with lid on until artichokes are soft when pierced by fork and all excess moisture evaporates. If necessary, add a little more water until vegetables are soft. Season with pepper. Towards the end add peas so they will be nice and perky. Season with salt and more pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside to cool or serve hot. This could be a meal in itself or as a side dish which ever way it will be well remembered.

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10 thoughts on “Artichokes with Broad Beans and Peas

  1. Sounds divine, but getting the ingredients would be a feat in itself as you say. Where we too early to get this?

    • I’m not sure but someone in Norwich is making it as she found the ingredients from a local farmer but she could not get the feathery fennel leaves so she using the bulb which will impart the same flavours. I’m sure some supermarkets should still have it as our season here has not finish and I would think that yours would be a little later than ours as your June weather is like our April/May weather. If all else fails try using the frozen kind and I’m sure you will get a similar dish and it will taste the same none the less!

  2. Efterpe showed me how to make this and I love it. I have to make do with tinned artichokes which are not as good but better than nothing. Fennel is really easy to grow in a pot on the patio. I like the idea of perky peas!

    • Might give growing fennnel a go on my patio. Alternatively, as I live only an hour from Dover may take a day trip a France to see if I can get any of it over there, and of course, it is also a day out ………..bring on the moules frites or the assiette de fruits de mer!! All they had in our local supermarket were the broad beans which are in season at present. Have artichokes in a jar., which I assume are like the tinned variety.

  3. Well, after finally tracking down all the ingredients, I made this dish for my lunch today, after dividing the recipe to make 2 portions instead of the 4 it served. I made it exactly as is said, apart from Ithe fact I only got one artichoke (they are very expensive see below) and got some chargrilled ones from the deli counter which as they didn’t need cooking I put in when I put the peas in. and I used freshly grated nutmeg, and used new potatoes. I ate it hot, and it was very good, even if I say so myself, but I think it would probably be better eaten at room temperature – my opinion. It has a very fresh clean taste for those of you who have been to Spain not unlike their Menestra de Verduras. I have some left over so will be able to try both ways. A note for those in UK Artichokes are the hardest to find, the other items like broad beans and fennel and dill are available at Morrisons in my home town this week, but not at Asda or Sainsbury, which only had the broad beans (which are in season at the moment, and so should be available). The only place that had the artichokes fresh were Waitrose, and they were £1.99 each, but they didn’t have the fennel or dill. Did a lot of research of where to buy on the net by looking at their various websites, so as to save on petrol and shoe leather. Not something that you would make everyday!

  4. Congratulations! It amazes me how such a simple dish for us here can be such an ordeal somewhere like the UK. My mother has around 5 artichoke plants around the hotel grounds like most people in the rural part of Greece which are enough to supply a household enough artichokes for considerable artichoke dishes. People do this as when artichokes come into season they can cost as much as 1 euro per artichoke but the price drops as more artichokes are more in supply. Which makes it an expensive vegetable unless you grow it yourself. I put a question to you all, “how many of my guests truly appreciate what they are given to eat in our hotel when we serve them this dish?

  5. Sadly, not enough, some people are suspicious of different tastes & textures! The other problem with this dish for those whose are unfamiliar with the ingrediants is the colour. It’s difficult to impress those who are used to frozen peas and carrots with a fabulous recipe like this! Needless to say I know at least 4 guests who would appreciate it ;0) X

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