Artichoke Nissarda

In concept, at least, this is a reasonably simple vegetable dish which makes a good starter. It is an artichoke heart filled with mushroom stuffing and coated with hollandaise sauce. If you didn’t know, hollandaise sauce is an emulsion of butter and egg yolks. It isn’t difficult but does need patience and the judicious control of heat so that the egg yolks cook without scrambling.

My colleague Richard Shepherd, who was the first head chef at the Capital Hotel in London, collected this recipe whilst working in southern France. It has always been amongst my favourites.

Ingredients

  • 4 large artichokes
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon dried orégano
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mushroom stuffing

  • 2 oz (50 g) shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 4 oz (100 g) button mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Hollandaise sauce

  • 3 oz (75 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • lemon juice
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper

Method

The Mushroom Stuffing

  1. Put the shallots and mushrooms into a food processor and chop them until fine but not a purée.
  2. Place this stuffing into a small saucepan with the olive oil, a pinch of salt and some pepper. Stir to the boil, then fit a lid and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Take care that the stuffing doesn’t burn for it dries out as it cooks.

The Artichokes

  1. Artichokes seem to produce twice the volume of trimmings to their original bulk. Arrange a small production line with, first, a dustbin over which to trim the artichokes, next a small bowl with most of the lemon juice, and lastly the saucepan in which you will cook them. This should contain some cold water, salt, dried herb and a few drops of lemon juice.
  2. Snap off the stalks and discard them. With a short serrated knife (any good bread knife will do), slice a thin layer from the base and sides. Then cut off the top of the artichoke leaving about 1 in (2.5 cm) of base. You will now need a small sharp knife, like a cook’s turning knife, to trim away the rest of the leaves and any bristly or green patches. Work delicately as you do this or you will lose some of the artichoke bottom.
  3. As you finish each choke drop it into the lemon juice and then into the saucepan. Boil with a tight-fitting lid until tender, about 20 minutes, depending on the size of the vegetables.
  4. Take a spoon and carefully scrape out the hairy fibres from the centre of the choke.

The Hollandaise Sauce

  1. Clarify the butter by heating it slowly in a saucepan so that the butter oil separates and rises to the top.
  2. Whisk the egg yolks and 2 fl oz (50 ml) water over a low heat until you have a cooked sabayon, a texture that is thick yet light and creamy. Off the heat, whisk in the clarified butter a spoonful at a time. The butter and egg yolk sabayon should be at a similar temperature. Finish the sauce with some lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper.

To Complete

  1. Place one artichoke heart on each plate. Place a spoonful of mushroom stuffing in the centre and then coat with hollandaise sauce.
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