I always come back energized every time I have been in Rome. It might be the chaos, the nonsensicalness of the traffic, the cloud of smells and colours, the power of hidden flavours. What astonishes me every time I pay a visit to my favourite European city is the conscious awareness of being Italian.
No matter what the temperature is, Italians wear what etiquette a' la moda dictates. If it is April you couldn't possibly wear sandals and shorts. Long trousers, closed shoes and tights are indispensable. Even if it is 25C in the shade.
And meals start and finish at a set hour. Here in England I grew up used to see people lunching and dining at any time of the day - lunch at 3, drinks at 5, dinner at 6...you can always be sure to find a restaurant open whenever you fancy.
In Italy, and even in Rome, meals are still a serious affair. Like drinking. Very unusually you will find locals drinking wine during the day without a meal and if you do it is still considered to be a bit alcoholic peasant farmers- who traditionally have it even for breakfast with their salame and pecorino! Even during aperitif, which still involves food (to most foreigners' surprise), wine is often "fuori menu" - a Crodino or Prosecco is the most appropriate choice.
I find Rome to have a magical atmosphere in the Spring or early Summer. This time it felt almost like Summer as it was 27C during the day. The air is rich of sun. And you can walk everywhere without getting sweaty.
Food-wise, whatever the global market may be, food is cooked around seasonal ingredients. Artichokes are a question mark for me though. In Tuscany they only seem to appear between April and June while in Rome they dominate every hostaria menu any month of the year.
This recipe is one of those that glorifies the earthy and yet silky taste of artichokes - carciofi. The word itself sounds funny to me (in Italian). My grandmother many times used to say "sei proprio un carciofo" (you are really an artichoke) meaing " you are really awkward, gullible". Why?
Carciofi in umido con le uova
For 4 people
1 garlic clove;
2 tbsp olive oil;
1 vegetable stock or broth;
1/2 glass white winel
1/2 glass lukewarm water;
2 tbsp flour
1. Peel the artichokes. Cut the stalk and using a knife detach the outer leaves until you get to a softer inside. Continue removing some of the other leaves keeping a finger on the basis of the leaf and tearing with a knife so that the bottom of the leaf remains. Do not get shocked by the amount of artichokes you will waste - the first time I did it I was!
2. Cut the "hearts " into quarters. Toss them in flour and then shake them of any excess.
3. In a large pan fry the oil with the crushed garlic. Add the artichokes and mix them well to ensure they get coated in the oil.
4. Add to the mixture the stock or broth. Continue cooking and tossing.
5. Add the water and wine and cover with the lid for at least 10 minutes. Stir continually until they become soft. You will see that a juicy and flavorful sauce gets formed.
6. In a bowl break the eggs, whisk them and season with salt, pepper and pecorino romano. Add the eggs to the artichokes stirring quickly to ensure they cook throughly.
Serve with fresh bread and a glass of red wine.
I would recommend "Da sora Margherita" (sora means sorella) nel Ghetto where you can find traditional dishes at a very reasonable price. Or you could simply make these artichokes at home if you are lucky enough to find them. I have decided to grow them myself in our new little allotment! Easy.