This week in the medina in Fez, the market stalls are piled high with artichokes, which is always a sign that summer is just round the corner as their abundance tends to precede a spate of much warmer weather in this part of North Africa.
The main types are grown locally in the fields that are visible from the rooftop of the Fez Cooking School. They are the heavy round globe variety, pale green and dense with thick stems. The base of the stalk is trimmed then the whole globes are steamed until the base is tender.
Once cooled, the leaves are removed and discarded leaving a disk of an artichoke heart, which can be used as a base to stuff. My favourite being the recipient for a goat’s cheese soufflé. Served with a crisp lettuce heart salad this is a winner every time.
But the traditional use in Moroccan cuisine is to serve them with a rich beef tagine, and fresh season steamed peas. The recipe is a classic and not for the light hearted, but after a long hike in the olive groves that are in full bloom at the moment, is a perfect family dish to end the day. Recipes become classics for a reason: this tajine is simply superb. Served with freshly baked bread, a plate of olives and a Moroccan tomato and cucumber salad and it is a feast. You can find how to make it at one of the tajine and side dishes workshops, or if you are not in Fez at the moment and want to try it at home, in the next blog article!
The other artichoke variety is the star-like green and purple ones that grow wild on the Zalagh hills beyond the medina.
These delicate wild ones are much smaller and could be confused with a big basket of sea urchins when you see them on the stalls. Their season is fleeting so at the Fez Cooking School it’s artichoke mania to enjoy the most of them whilst they are with us as the well-known journalist Teresa Levonian Cole experienced when she recently joined us on a tajine and side dishes workshop at the school.
The simplest way to use them is raw or seared on a hot grill and served as a salad. The points of their leaves are simply trimmed, they are cut in half, the mini chokes removed with a teaspoon, and then they are thinly sliced, and served with lemon, olive oil and sea salt. Add segments of orange or slithers of preserved lemon skin for a delicious fresh dish. And pop into Eden for a taste of the approach of summer on this fortnights Market Moroccan menu.