Cardoon Soup

Zuppa di Cardi Aquilani

Cardoons that come from Aquila are famous throughout the entire country for their size and quality. They appear to be somewhat hard to get hold of in the UK (I wonder why? The climate is so perfect for them!), so large crispy fen celery is one substitute, or Jerusalem artichokes, or half celeriac and half Jerusalem artichokes. I have seen cardoons growing in herbaceous borders in the UK, but why not in the vegetable patch? They are such a delicious and versatile vegetable.

Ingredients

  • 1 X 2 lb (1 kg) cardoon or 2 lb (1 kg) celery or Jerusalem artichokes or celeriac
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • 11 oz (300 g) veal, finely minced
  • 10 oz (275 g) Parmesan cheese grated
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 6 tablespoons sunflower or mildly flavoured olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 oz (100 g) chicken giblets, trimmed, washed and chopped
  • ½ glass dry white wine
  • ½ teaspoon tomato purée
  • pints (1.5 litres) hot chicken or other poultry broth
  • 2 stale white bread rolls, cubed
  • oil for deep-frying

Method

Clean and cube the cardoon or other vegetable(s), being sure to strip off any stringy parts. Wash carefully and place in a basin. Cover with fresh cold water and add the lemon juice and a large pinch of salt. Soak for about 15 minutes, then drain, transfer to a saucepan and cover with fresh water. Boil for about 15 minutes or until tender.

Mix the veal, half the Parmesan, 2 of the eggs and a little salt and pepper together and shape them into hazelnut-sized balls. Heat half the sunflower or olive oil and butter and fry the meatballs quickly. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside.

Fry the giblets in the remaining oil and butter for 4 minutes. Pour the wine over the giblets and allow the fumes to evaporate, then add the tomato purée and the cooked cardoon or other vegetable(s). Pour the hot broth over this mixture, stir and cook for 2 minutes, then add the meatballs and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

Soak the bread cubes in the remaining egg for about 10 minutes, then deep-fry in hot oil until golden and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.

Transfer the soup to a warmed tureen, mix in the hot fried bread and cover with grated Parmesan. Serve at once.

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