On Leith Walk, in
Both families, the Valvona and the Crolla, came from poor peasant stock in the south of
Mary Contini is part of the Crolla family, and this delightful book is written to her daughter, Francesca. She describes the background and history of her own family, their origins in the hill country of
Mary Contini’s observations on food, its quality and history, coupled with a nostalgia for family traditions that have enriched their adopted land, make this a charming book. She includes careful notes on method, one of which - how to prepare artichokes – coincided with the arrival in my house of the tricky vegetable (flower bud actually), and was therefore timely.
Put some cut lemon quarters in a bowl of cold water, get a sharp knife and turn on the cold tap.
Trim off the top of the artichoke, which is spiky. Inside is revealed a beautiful magenta heart. Rub every cut surface immediately with lemon juice.
Cut the artichoke in quarters and rub with lemon juice. You can see the hairy centre. With a sharp knife cut it away otherwise its like eating a pillow.
Drop the pieces into the acidulated water as you go.
To cook as an hors d’oeuvre:
Put the quarters into a pan with:
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
A handful of flat leaved parsley, chopped
About a teaspoon of salt
About 4-5 tbsp olive oil
Same amount of water.
Bring to the boil and then simmer gently until tender.
You might like to add some mint leaves towards the end of the cooking.
Serve warm, and mop up the juices with good bread.
Dear Francesca: An Italian Journey of Recipes Recounted with Love, by Mary Contini
Published by Random House, Ebury Press