Cardoons. In my mind, the word cardoon is exclaimed dramatically in a Scottish accent. Don't ask me why. It's irrational. They aren't Scottish, but it does reflect some of the drama they deliver.
Before I got a regular veg box delivery, I hadn't heard of them, these beautiful artichoke thistles with their silvery grey celery like, spikey stems and thistley silvery foliage. They can grow up to 2m and in summer, produce huge thistle-like flowers which attract bees. They were favoured in Victorian times, but are native to the Mediterranean.
Taking a bite of a raw stem, the flavor is fresh and slightly bitter with a celery like crunch. Once cooked, the bitterness disappears leaving a taste of artichokes with a satisfying crunch.
I've experimented with a few recipes this weekend. This is not a healthy dish, but on a cold and windy spring weekend, it delivered just the right comfort notes I needed. And a little indulgence every once and a while is a good thing. The sorrel delivers a lovely lemony note cutting through the heaviness of the cream and the richness of the smoked cheese and chicken stock.
300g fresh linguine
1.5L chicken stock (or water)
1 bunch of cardoons
30g sorrel, finely chopped
200ml double cream
1 clove garlic, minced
80g of smoked, hard cheese grated
pepper to season
glug of olive oil to drizzle at the end
Bowl of water with the juice of a lemon squeezed in
Prepare the cardoons by topping and tailing and dipping the cut ends in the lemon water. On each stalk, peel any leaves and thorns and remove the ribs and any fibrous threads. Cut into small strips and place in the lemon water to stop from going brown.
Heat the chicken stock and braise the cardoons for ten minutes. Remove and refresh in cold water. Keep the chicken stock on the heat and add the pasta. Cook for two to three minutes.
As the pasta is cooking melt the butter in a frying pan. Add the cream, garlic and cardoons and bring to a low simmer. Once the pasta is cooked, add to the pan using tongs to transfer. Sprinkle the cheese and sorrel (keep a little for garnish) and stir to combine all the ingredients. Add a splash of the pasta water to loosen if necessary. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a few grinds of black pepper.