Kadra of wild artichokes and green peas

Wild artichokes are usually available in the beginning of spring or late April. They're the hardest thing to peel and clean but rather quick to cook. I have the feeling that they're also disappearing from our Moroccan tables.

Fez is known to keep traditions alive and this is where I see families still cooking the traditional dish using wild artichokes. However, people tend to buy them already peeled (same day) by vegetable sellers in the market. So they became a sort of delicacy.


Today's dish is meant to be cooked using only wild artichokes as a main vegetable but in order to feed a large family, my mother coupled it with green peas, which is a very common combination in Moroccan cooking.

The particularity of this dish of wild artichokes is that you can serve it with rice which cooks in a particular way. You may do without but I think you have to try this version.

Wild artichokes can be cooked in  a tagine Mqalli style using garlic, coriander and parsley, turmeric, ginger, salt and pepper and finish off with a drizzle of lemon juice, preserved lemons and purple olives.


Today I'm posting the wild artichoke stew but Kadra style, omitting the garlic and olives and adding a hint of smen in the beginning of the cooking process.

Adding smen in the very beginning of cooking prevents it from hitting you in the face with its rather strong flavour which is not to everyone's liking (a bit like blue cheese). It becomes a pleasant addition.

Kadra is generous in sauce or marka which is quite needed here to cook the rice. It is then reduced and served. What is needed in this case is a pressure cooker or a deep cooking pot.

Meat and vegetable quantities here are as an indication. You could add more or less.

If you don't have fresh artichokes, there is no point using tinned ones but you could use frozen packs. Just bare in mind some of them have been treated with citric acid instead of lemons and that tends to ruin the artichoke's taste. Pick a trusted brand. You could use frozen green peas or petits pois.



Ingredients
Serves 6 to 8 persons
Prep: 10 min- Cooking: 90 min

  • 1 kg of meat with bones cut into big pieces, shoulder or leg
  • 2 -3 kgs of wild artichokes (replace with globe artichokes)
  • 1 -2 kgs of green peas, peeled and washed, optional
  • 1/2 kg of small heads of onions (pick large spring onions and use the head or replace with shallots)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of ground ginger
  • 1 tsp of black and white pepper
  • 1 tbsp of turmeric
  • A good pinch of saffron threads
  • Salt to taste.
  • 1 tbsp of smen 
  • 3 tbsps of vegetable oil
  • 250 g of long rice, washed and drained.
  • About 3 litres of water 
  • 3 tbsps of parsley, chopped
  • 1-2 tbsps of lemon juice

The wild artichokes can be replaced with globe artichokes. Preserved lemons can also be added


Preparation

Peel and clean the artichokes and only keep the hearts (and peeled stalks in case of globe artichokes).

Cut the meat into pieces and place in a deep cooking pot. Add oil, smen, chopped onion. Add about a cup or mug of water and stir. Cover and place on medium heat. Give it about 10 minutes until the meats infuses with spices and cover all these ingredients with more water. Close the pot and cook until the meat is just about tender and cooked through. Stir occasionally by adding water if necessary especially if you are not using a pressure cooker (which might require less water and less time).

Passed 1 hour of cooking, add the whole shallots.

Once the meat has cooked, remove and keep it covered in a different pot. If you see you have less than 1 1/2 litre of sauce add a bit more water. Deep narrow pots are quite useful in this case.

Place the rice in a cheesecloth and seal it making sure nothing will escape. Make sure to loosen it a bit as rice will triple in size.

Add the chopped parsley, peas and the purse of rice into the sauce (frozen peas need less time to cook). Cover and carry on with cooking for about 15 min.

When the peas are almost cooked, add the artichoke hearts (they take 10-15 minutes to cook through).

When all the vegetables are cooked, remove the rice and place the meat back in the sauce and heat it a bit. Reduce the sauce over medium-high heat leaving the pot uncovered. Add the lemon juice to the sauce just after you knock off the heat.

Open the purse of rice and aerate it with a fork. Set aside.

In a serving dish, place the meat first and cover it with peas and onions. Finish off with the artichokes. Rice is usually served on the side and guests spoon as much as they want.


Note: This method of cooking rice in a sort of purse is widely used for some types of kadra in Fez. So basically you can serve a kadra of chickpeas with a side dish of rice in the stew itself. The same goes for a kadra with courgette and thyme.


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