In Andalucia, Southern Spain, it is rare to come across vegetables when dining out. Apparently, this is because the locals eat a lot of vegetables at home so when they go out they prefer to order meat and fish. Perhaps this is why one of the first dishes that caught my eye when I was flicking through Movida Rustica was the Alcachofas con Jamón (artichokes with ham). I love artichokes, but I never saw one in my entire time living in Andalucia, although the addition of jamón in vegetable dishes is familiar making a vegetarian’s passage through Spain even more trying.
“In Zaragoza there is a small suburban restaurant owned by a man who has made his life studying jamón. He is a brilliant cortador … who jokingly says he sold his soul to the devil to be able to cut jamón so well. ... This is one of the dishes he served me one day: brilliantly soft artichokes in a delicate jamón and sherry-flavoured sauce.”
I realise it is sacrilege but the only type of jamón I could was the pre-sliced stuff. In addition to thinly sliced jamón (by which they mean freshly sliced by a cortador rather than the packet stuff), the recipe calls for a 100g piece of jamón. Well, getting my hands on this was near impossible so – shock, horror! – I used pancetta. I hope there are no Spaniards reading this, but I found it worked just fine as a substitute and I still had the sliced jamón serrano to dress up the top.
I couldn’t get any Spanish sherry either, so I substituted white wine. OK, yes, it was a very different dish to the one on the page, but it was still delicious. I am sure the original is too and when I come across the right ingredients in future I will do it properly.
If artichokes aren’t in season or you can’t find them you could use tinned artichoke hearts (not marinated ones). I also recommend skipping the teaspoon of salt – the jamón provides seasoning enough.
The recipe below from Movida Rustica makes rather a lot – 6 medias raciones, which is roughly translated as entrée size. I would recommend halving the recipe if you are making the dish as part of a tapas selection for 4-6 people.
I used the leftovers on spaghetti the next day with a little extra parsley and some fried breadcrumbs; it was great.
Add the lemon juice to a large bowl of water to stop the artichokes browning as you peel them. Working one at a time, and using a small sharp knife, slice off most of the stem and the top one-third to half of the artichoke tops. Pull off the tough outer leaves to reveal the soft, pale yellow inner leaves, then peel the stem and slice the artichoke lengthways into quarters. Using a teaspoon, scoop out and discard the hairy choke. Place in the acidulated water and repeat with the remaining artichokes. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil over high heat. Add the drained artichokes and boil for 15 minutes, or until just tender. Drain again.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5-6 minutes, or until soft but not brown. Add the garlic, finely chopped jamón and bay leaves and sauté for another 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 1 minute, then increase the heat to high, add the sherry and boil for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low-medium and simmer for 20 minutes, or until reduced by half, stirring occasionally.
Add the cooked artichokes, 400ml (14 fl oz) warm water and sea salt. Combine and gently cook for another 15 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by half. Stir in the parsley and transfer to a warm serving dish. Scatter the roughly torn jamón over the artichokes and serve.