The two seasons of artichokes, spring and autumn, are wholeheartedly embraced in Southern Italy. Romans bathe them in a sauce of lemon and mint, the Neapolitans fry them and in Sardinia they’re even pickled. The preparation can be a purgatorial task so it’s a vegetable to relish. The baby ones don’t take much peeling so they are much easier. For me, frying is more the exception than the rule, but it’s one of the best ways to eat these.
To make the aioli, put the crushed garlic, egg yolk, mustard and saffron in a bowl and whisk together until well combined. Whisking constantly, gradually add the oil, drop by drop at first and then in a slow steady stream until the mixture is thick and emulsified. Add the lemon juice and season to taste with salt.
To clean the artichokes, snap off the outer leaves and discard. Use a small paring knife to cut along the outer perimeter, removing more leaves. Chop off the top third and discard. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer layer of the stem and the sides of the artichoke. Slice in half lengthways and, if there is any furry choke inside, use a teaspoon to remove it. Put the peeled artichokes in a large bowl of cold water with the lemons squeezed in to prevent the artichokes from oxidising.
Put the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs into three separate shallow bowls. Drain the artichokes and pat them dry with a clean tea towel (dish towel). Dust the artichokes with flour and shake off the excess, then dip them into the beaten egg and coat in the breadcrumbs.
Heat a wok or heavy-based saucepan with 5 cm (
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