Frances Bissell Easter recipes: Two dishes using artichokes and raddichio to try

PUBLISHED: 11:45 17 March 2016

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A visit to The Rialto market in the Italian city where artichokes and radicchio were on sale prompted Frances to think of two dishes that are also appropriate in the run up to Easter.

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I’m sure you have the Guinness and oysters sorted, as well as the shamrock so I’ll mention some ideas for the next few days rather than concentrate on St Patrick’s Day.

We’re still in Lent, just, and I have been cooking some suitably Lenten fare recently, not deliberately but as a result of some gorgeous vegetables in the farmers’ markets. The fennel is sweet and concentrated, the radicchio enormous and long-lasting, the celeriac dense and nutty.

With this last, I have been adding it to casseroles and cooking it with potatoes for a flavoursome mash, but the best use is, once peeled, to slice it very thinly, then cut into matchsticks. Blanch it by putting it in a colander or sieve, pouring a kettle of boiling water over it and then refreshing it immediately under the cold tap. I mix it with a mustardy mayonnaise, and serve it topped with some cooked, shelled mussels. The flavour and textural combination is a winner.

A recent visit to Venice has also inspired my cooking. The Rialto market had the first artichokes from Torcello, sold whole, and also prepared as artichoke hearts with their tiny violet and green whorls and artichoke bases. Next to them, on the Moro brothers stall, were piles of sculptural ivory and crimson radicchio. The perfect ingredients for serving with pasta and an artichoke or fennel risotto is a lovely dish at this time of year.

Fennel and radicchio together are ideal partners with pasta, and the way I do this is to trim and thinly slice the fennel and a shallot, gently cook them in olive oil. When they are soft, I add a tablespoon of rinsed capers, a tablespoon of sultanas, and a head of radicchio, shredded across. Stir this for a minute or two, which will wilt and brown the radicchio, then toss it into freshly cooked and drained pasta. If you want to enrich the dish, some crushed anchovies, some chopped prosciutto or some creamy gorgonzola will do this nicely.

A grander version follows.

Recipe: Linguine with wilted radicchio and seafood (serves 4)

Ingredients:

4 fresh scallops

200g peeled raw prawns

1 head of radicchio

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed (optional)

400g dried linguine

Method:

- Clean the scallops, and quarter them. Put them and the prawns to one side. Trim the radicchio, break off all the leaves, and shred them.

- Heat the oil in a saucepan, or sauté pan, and in it wilt the radicchio. It will brown and shrink. Stir in the parsley, garlic, and the shellfish.

- Meanwhile, cook the pasta, drain it of most of its water, and then combine the pasta, seafood and radicchio, adding more olive oil, if necessary. Serve hot. The scallops and prawns should not cook for more than 20-30 seconds. Parmesan is not customarily served with seafood sauces.

Recipe: Artichoke risotto (Serves 4)

Ingredients:

25 g butter or extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

6-8 small artichokes, trimmed down to the heart and thinly sliced; or use artichoke bottoms, thinly sliced

250 g Arborio or Carnaroli rice

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated nutmeg

1 bay leaf

150 ml dry white wine

350 - 450 ml vegetable or chicken stock

To serve: butter, Parmesan and nutmeg

Method:

-Heat the butter or oil in a heavy pan, and gently fry the vegetables until the onions are wilted.

-Stir in the rice until well coated in butter or oil.

- Pour on the wine and cook, stirring until it has been absorbed before adding stock, a ladle at a time. Let each addition of stock be absorbed before adding the next. You may need to add more or less liquid, depending on how creamy you like your risotto.

- Just before serving in heated soup plates, stir in some butter and grate on some Parmesan and nutmeg.

©Frances Bissell 2016


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