‘Rolling out Recipes’ from Le Marche.

Over the coming months we want to share a selection of seasonal recipes with you, from the heart of Italy.

Year after year, as the months and ingredients change, so does the family table. We prepare and serve what is in season, strawberries are ready in April, we don’t eat them in December! The earth gives us what we need, oranges and their vitamin C in winter and refreshing watermelons arrive in August.

Ingredients vary, not just seasonally, but monthly. Sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically. Each month passes and we see a change in the fields. The locals are passionately involved with their surroundings and respect the land. They lovingly sow their crops and naturally reap most of their produce in the summer months.

Some products are ever present, carrots, celery, sage and rosemary, and they form the basis of most casserole dishes.

Here in Le Marche the quality of the ingredients is very important. Dishes are simple and delicious. A piece of meat, grilled and transformed with lashings of local olive oil, a peach eaten off the tree after lunch. The gorgeous artichoke dipped in lemon juice and luminous green olive oil. Tomatoes bursting with the scent of summer.

It’s April and the weather has changed. We are surrounded by flowering fruit blossom. Their beautiful colours reveal the imminent peach and plum harvest.  There is tarragon and rocket and the wonderful arrival of succulent strawberries, which help to rid the body of toxins, accumulated over the winter, with their slightly astringent qualities.

April is the month of spring cleaning and Easter.  Artichokes are now in the fields.  Their tall, solid, lilac crowned stalks stand proudly in smart lines.

This week’s recipe – starting with something simple.

Carciofi RipieniStuffed artichokes, perfect served with roast lamb.

Serves 6

  • 12 medium globe artichokes
  • 1 medium bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 4 garlic gloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 30g (1oz) butter
  • 500ml (2 cups) vegetable stock

Rinse the artichokes and trim the tough outer leaves.

Cut away about a third of the top spear of each artichoke. Cut away the stem completely, in line with the artichoke bottom.

Put each artichoke bottom side up, onto a wooden chopping board.  Push gently against the artichoke with your hand to widen the central cavity of the artichoke.  Using scissors, snip away any top spikes of the internal small leaves.

Mix the chopped parsley and garlic together and divide the mixture between the artichoke cavities and the leaves.

Put the artichokes upright in a high rimmed saucepan, where they can fit in a single layer.  Drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and add the stock. Put a knob of butter into each artichoke and bring the stock to the boil. Spoon over a little of the stock, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the artichokes are tender.  Remove the lid and continue cooking to reduce the liquid until only a little remains.

Serve warm, enjoy!