We have tried many recipes, see http://www.backyardfarmer.co.nz, mainly because we have a LOT of cardoon, but also, because we do not admit defeat easily. Wasting any garden harvest is a serious offense in this household. Mrs BYF has been on a mission to find a foolproof recipe that we can both enjoy on a regular basis instead of a one off and finally, partly due to the influence of the great Marcella Hazan and her own invention, she has arrived at the recipe below :
Cardi alla Besciamella (white sauce) with Home Made Mascarpone (We buy fresh unpasteurised milk and make our own. Tatua makes a very good mascarpone and sells in all the supermarkets, but it is very pricey.)
6 or more cardoon stems. The largest ones on the plant work best. I take care not to over harvest so the plant can keep growing.
1 liter of home made chicken stock
500 ml Besciamella (white sauce, use any recipe you like)
2 small brown onions
5 strips or more of un smoked bacon (no prosciutto to be had – pre packaged rip offs do not count )
Home made mascarpone to dollop over the besciamella. (Marcella recommends grated Parmigiano but hey, in Dunedin it is cheaper to use gold dust)
Pre heat the oven to 200C
Prepare a bowl of lemon water to hold all the cardoon pieces. Using a potato peeler, strip the strings from the cardoon stems, and cut the stems in bite size pieces. Drop the pieces into the bowl of lemon water. When all have been prepared, drain the lemon water and put the cardoon in a pan, cover with water, stir in about 1 tablespoon of salt. Boil the cardoon until soft, about 40 minutes. Drain the water and set the cardoon aside. Fry the onion and bacon in a few tablespoons of olive oil until the onion is soft but not coloured. Add the cardoon and fry for about 3 minutes, then add stock, covering the cardoon. Simmer until the stock has eveporated and the pan is almost dry. Arrange the pieces in a baking pan, convex side up, and cover with besciamella. Dot generously with tablespoons of mascarpone or grated parmigiano (or both!) and bake at 200C until bubbling and golden brown on top. Serve with fresh bread as a main meal or as a side to a meat dish.