Carciofi alla Giudea

Jewish Artichokes

These ‘Jewish’ artichokes are a Roman speciality, which are served in the Ghetto, an ancient quarter of Rome. This is the oldest surviving native cuisine in Rome, and the best, and was introduced to me by Jonathan Meades, The Times’ restaurant critic. The artichokes are deep-fried, like crisps on the outside but tender-hearted inside, and you eat everything. They must be very well drained otherwise they are greasy. They are an essential part of the Roman frítto misto, much beloved of Jonathan. This has nothing to do with deep-fried fish, and everything to do with the obscurer parts of a lamb (spleen, testicles, brain, spinal cord etc.). It is usually astonishingly good, with the unpleasant-looking but delicious parts being safely hidden in batter.

Ingredients

  • 2–3 medium or small artichokes per person, 6–8 cm deep and wide (don’t attempt to cater for more than 3 people)
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 little sunflower oil

Method

Trim the artichokes, remove choke carefully, then store the artichokes in lemon-acidulated water. Before cooking, drain and dry thoroughly. Trim the stalks to 1 cm.

Heat the oil to 180°C/350°F and preheat the oven to 120°C/250°F/Gas ½.

You can cook 2 or 3 artichokes at a time, or the number the pan will hold in a single layer. Plunge them into the hot oil and then, with tongs, push each artichoke, leaves side down, firmly against the bottom of the pan in turn. Hold for 1 minute and repeat with the other artichokes in the oil. This pushing down will spread the leaves out and allow the oil to penetrate and crisp them separately.

After this initial blast, the artichokes will need a further 8–10 minutes. You may need to turn the heat down to medium. Occasionally turn and press them. When they are golden brown and very crisp, remove to a roasting tray with a rack in it to drain. Keep warm in the low oven until the remaining artichokes are cooked.