I have no problem with stuffing mushrooms. My life, though, is too short to spend time dismembering raw artichokes.
They grow in profusion in our garden, looming over the rest of the veg like triffids. I love them simply boiled and served with melted butter, pulling off each leaf and nibbling off the soft flesh before scraping out the hairy choke and digging into the base. Delicious. I should have stopped while I was ahead but I got seduced by my friend Magdi’s description of his lamb and artichoke tagine.
If you grow your own artichokes and you’re unsure about the process of prepping them, there are lots of how-to videos online. I have to say I detest the process. You need a very sharp knife, brute force and a great deal more patience than I have.
Reader, I cheated. The French food company Picard sells artichoke bottoms ready prepped and frozen, available via Ocado. You can also get them brined (I haven’t tried these) in which case they’ll need a very good rinse, or you could substitute artichoke hearts from a jar. These will only need draining, gently blotting any oil, and heating through in the tagine at the last minute.
Lamb and Artichoke Tagine
1 kg boned lamb shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and sinew, cut into 4cm dice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled, halved and cut lengthways into thick slivers
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or finely chopped
2 tspn ginger
1 tspn turmeric
1 tspn ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
350 ml water
3 pickled lemons
3 tbsp chopped coriander (plus more to garnish)
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Pinch of saffron, soaked in a little hot water
500g artichoke bottoms
100g green olives, pitted
Zest and juice of 1 fresh lemon
Heat the olive oil in a wide, heavy-based pan and brown the lamb all over. You’ll need to do this in batches. Remove and set aside.
Halve the pickled lemons and pick out the pips. Finely chop one lemon and the pulp of the other two. Cut the peel of these two into fine slivers and keep separate.
Add the onions to the pan, sprinkle with a little salt and cook until soft and golden. Now add the spices (except the saffron) and garlic and cook for a few minutes more. Put the meat back into the pan, along with any juices.
Stir in the chopped pickled lemon (not the slivers), two tablespoons of the chopped coriander and all of the parsley. Season with ground black pepper. You can add more salt later if necessary but please bear in mind the lemons and olives are both salty.
Pour in the water, stir well, put on a lid and turn the heat to very low. Simmer for an hour or until the meat is tender.
Add the artichoke hearts and olives, making sure the artichokes are submerged (you can cook them from frozen). Stir in the saffron and its water and bring back up to a bubbling simmer.
Stir in half of the reserved pickled lemon slivers, the final tablespoon of chopped coriander and the zest and juice of the fresh lemon. Check the seasoning and add more salt if required. Garnish with coriander leaves and the remaining slivered lemon rind. Serve with flatbreads or couscous.