Aesthetically, it’s beautiful. The Ancient Greeks and Romans considered it a delicacy and an aphrodisiac. It’s versatile; it can be eaten raw, baked, grilled, boiled, steamed or fried. It’s healthy; it has the highest known antioxidant capacity in the plant world, helping digestion and reducing cholesterol levels. But for the uninitiated, this seasonal, multi-leafed bauble-shaped vegetable can be mind-boggling—where do you start? This artichoke stew with mussels is a good, hearty plate for the beginner.
Season: Winter/spring Difficulty: Easy
Preparation time: 40 minutes
- 6 artichokes
- 3 medium potatoes
- 1 onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- Clean the mussels. Put them in a saucepan over a medium-high heat, and add a glass of dry white wine and a glass of water. Cover and let it boil for about three minutes, until the mussels open. Turn off the heat and leave them to cool. Reserve the stock and remove the mussels from their shells.
- Peel and chop the onion. Heat a little oil in a pan and add the onion. When the onion begins to change colour, add the garlic cloves, finely chopped, and a pinch of salt.
- Prepare the artichokes. Remove the tough leaves, trim the ends so that only the light-coloured part remains and split them into four pieces. Put them in a bowl with water and lemon to prevent them from turning black.
- When the onion is soft, drain the artichokes and add them to the pan.
- Peel and dice the potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Add to the pan and let everything cook for five minutes.
- Add a glass of white wine and bring to the boil. Pour in the mussel stock and cook until the artichokes and potatoes are al dente, approximately 10 minutes.
- Add the mussels and a handful of parsley. Turn off the heat and stand for a couple of minutes. Serve hot. If it is a little dry, add more mussel stock.
- The recipe can also be made with squid, cuttlefish, shrimp, clams or cod.
- Five minutes before turning off the heat, you can add a mortar picada for extra flavour. This is a garlic paste made in the pestle and mortar: Crush four cloves of garlic and a pinch of salt. Add a dozen almonds and a piece of toasted bread. Mix together to form a paste. Add a few tablespoons of sauce from the stew and mix.
- Boil up the leftover artichoke leaves to make stock, which acts as an excellent cleanser. Let it cool and make a healthy iced artichoke tea.
You can find more traditional Catalan recipes here. Toni Rocamora is the head chef of a big family and lover of all gastronomy-related sports, such as snail hunting, mushroom hunting and market shopping. Toni was born in Oliana, a small town in the foothills of the Pyrenees, and inherited his passion for cooking from his mother, famous for her traditional family recipes.