This dish is rather like a layered lasagne but uses cardoons instead of pasta. It is a great pity that this delicious winter/spring vegetable (the stems of the plant are eaten) is not grown more extensively in the UK: it is enjoyed all over Umbria, the Abruzzi and Lazio. If you have never seen or cannot get cardoons, thick celery - as white as you can find - is the only possible substitute. Serve as a lunch or supper dish with a salad and plenty of crusty bread.
Prepare the cardoons or celery. Remove any stringy bits, cut into sections no more than
Heat the butter and olive oil in a pan and fry the onion in it until soft. Add the minced meat, brown it all over, add the drained mushrooms, then stir in the tomatoes. Add about three quarters of the stock, season with salt and pepper and cover. Leave to simmer for about 45 minutes or until reduced and thickened.
Heat the oil for deep-frying until a piece of bread dropped into it sizzles instantly. Dry the cardoons or celery sticks carefully, toss them in flour, then in beaten egg, and fry them until crisp and well browned. Drain them very thoroughly on kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt.
Cut the Fontina, mozzarella or Edam into
© 1990 Valentina Harris. All rights reserved.