It's that time of the year again. My favourite time. It's artichoke season. For me, the artichoke is quite simply the queen of all vegetables. At her best, when eaten in season. although I can't deny that I also love a good preserved artichoke (especially the divine homemade ones that I tried on the spectacular Greek island of Tinos this year) and my freezer is never complete without a bag (or two) of frozen artichokes, from Greece, of course.
Artichokes are not only delicious, but they are nutritional powerhouses. They contain potassium, magnesium, folate, antioxidant vitamin C and a surprising amount of fibre. Indeed, a large artichoke can contain up to 10 grams of fibre and 1/2 cup of cooked artichoke hearts can contain around 7 grams of fibre. The addition of broad beans to this traditional Greek dish also brings a further 4.6 grams of fibre, per 1/2 cup of cooked broad beans. Evidence suggests that fibre can help to lower the risk of heart disease and cancer and control blood sugar.
The artichoke is a much loved vegetable in Greece, featuring most famously in a homestyle dish 'a la polita' with plenty of dill, lemon, carrots and potatoes. In Zakynthos, artichokes are prepared filled with a herb and tomato flavoured rice (possibly my most favourite dish of all the delights prepared in my mother in law's Ionian kitchen). A little further a field from Zakynthos, in the Peloponnese artichokes are slowly simmered with another springtime treat, pungent green garlic. You can find the recipes for these classic Greek artichoke dishes here:
The beautiful green colour of this dish marks it as one that belongs to the spring. Traditionally, it is served as a main meal in itself with some crusty bread and the classic Greek table accompaniments of some sheep and goat's feta cheese and home cured olives. However, it also works well alongside some pan-fried fish. If artichokes and broad beans are not in season in your neck of the woods, you can use good quality frozen artichoke bottoms and broad beans as alternatives to fresh. This dish keeps well in the fridge for up to a day or two, but is best when brought back to room temperature just before serving.
Serves 4, cooking time 1 hour
Braised artichokes with broad beans (αγκινάρες με κουκιά)
Serves 4, cooking time 1 hour
500 gr broad beans (podded)
6-8 artichoke hearts, cleaned and quartered
1 small onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 bunch of dill, finely chopped
1/2 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of bukovo chilli flakes (or to taste)
A little sea salt (to taste)
3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, preferrably organic, well cleaned and halved
2 cups of water
1. In a heavy bottom saucepan, place olive oil and heat. Add the finely chopped onion and garlic, cook while stirring until translucent.
2. Add the herbs and chilli, stir to combine. Add the cleaned artichoke quarters, the podded broad beans, the water and squeeze the juice from the lemon, then add the lemon halves to the dish as well. Cook on a low heat until the vegetables are tender, but not falling apart (about 45 mins to 1 hour).