North African Cardoons

Cardoons grow wild all around the anchovy belt of the Mediterranean, and are particularly popular in North Africa. The brilliant African cook, Alaphia Bidwell, once went on a holiday to the Rif mountains and brought me back some wild North African cardoons. They were very prickly, but had an extremely good flavor.

Ingredients

  • 4-6 stalks of cardoon
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 eggs
  • Flour for coating
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Olive oil for shallow frying

For the stuffing

  • 1 cup ground lamb
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced 1 onion, minced
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin

Method

Mix together all the stuffing ingredients in a bowl. Cover and leave in a cool place for 1 hour.

Trim the cardoon stalks and cut into 2-inch lengths. Blanch in boiling water acidulated with the lemon juice for 10 minutes. Drain and plunge into cold water, then drain again thoroughly.

Make a sandwich with two pieces of cardoon and the stuffing in the center. Repeat this process until all the cardoon is used up. Beat the eggs in a shallow dish. Season the flour with salt and pepper, and place on a plate.

Heat the olive oil in a wide frying pan over a medium heat. Coat the cardoon sandwiches in flour, then dip into the egg and shallow fry for 15 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are browned. Do this fairly slowly as the heat needs to penetrate through the cardoons to cook the stuffing. Drain and serve immediately.

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