movida rustica (artichokes con jamón)
For those who reside out of Australia, this may be the first time you’ve heard of Frank Camorra, chef/owner of the popular Spanish restaurant MoVida in Melbourne. The first cookbook he penned won a string of awards in his adopted homeland (he’s originally from Barcelona) and his latest effort – MoVida Rustica, looks set to follow in its footsteps, having just won Le Cordon Bleu World Food Media Award for Best Hardcover Recipe Book. MoVida Rustica documents Camorra’s travels through his native country, where he goes in search of recipes which form the backbone of the Spanish culture. The resulting book is a gorgeous tome featuring page after page of interesting tales, arresting photography and mouth-watering recipes gleaned from the people he met along the way.
There’s a well curated mix of dishes, ranging from the rustic Escudella (Catalan hot pot) and Tortillitas de Camarones (baby prawn fritters), to more intricate creations such as Antxoa Tomate Ketua Sorbetearekin (anchovy with smoked tomato sorbet) and Terrina de Pulpa (octopus terrine) – a modern interpretation of the classic octopus and potato dish served in Madrid. It’s a real kaleidoscope of offerings, spanning all the vibrant, diverse regions of Spain. Most are highly accessible although there are a handful that require unusual ingredients or specialist cookware, for example Cazón Frito en Adobo (deep-fried marinated shark) and the pretty Flores Con Miel (deep-fried pastries with honey).
I tried a number of recipes (to great success), including soft buttery Puerros Cocidos (slow-cooked leeks) and the gloriously sticky Croquetas de Manos de Cerdo (deep-fried pig trotter croquettes). But my favourite were the Alcachofas Con Jamón (artichokes with jamón), a recipe he acquired from a cortador in Zaragoza. Cortadors are masters of the art of cutting jamón, trained to cut wafer-thin slices along the grain and across the width of the jamón (as every muscle has a different flavour). This simple dish showcases the jamón perfectly – a beautiful union of the salty slivers with soft artichokes in a delicate jamón and sherry infused sauce.
Alcachofas Con Jamón (artichokes with jamón)
serves 6, as a starter or part of a tapas spread
juice of 1 lemon
100g (3 1/2 oz) jamón, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
500ml (2 cups) dry sherry
50ml (1/2 fl oz) olive oil
1 tbsp plain flour
2 bay leaves
1 tsp sea salt
handful of parsley, finely chopped
12 thin slices jamón, roughly torn
Add the lemon juice in a large bowl of water, ready to receive the artichokes as they are peeled (to stop them browning). Working one at a time, slice off most of the stem and the the top 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 quarter it lengthways. Use a teaspoon to scoop out and discard the hairy choke. Pop them in the lemon water and repeat with the remaining artichokes.
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil on a high heat, and add the drained artichokes. Cook for 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5-6 minutes, until soft but not brown. Add the garlic, finely chopped jamón and bay leafs, and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Sprinkle over the flour and stir for a minute, then increase the heat to high and add the sherry, boiling for 1 minute. Turn the heat down to low-medium and leave to simmer for 20 minutes (or until the liquid as reduced by half), stirring occasionally.
Add the artichokes, 400ml (14 fl oz) warm water and the salt and gently combine. Leave to cook for another 15 minutes (or again, until the liquid as reduced by half), then remove from heat and stir in the parsley. Spoon into a warm serving plate and scatter over the roughly torn jamón.
Serve with some crusty bread to mop up all the juices.