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Catalunya: Tempura Carxofa amb Salsa de Llimona

(Tempura artichoke with lemon dressing) this is the dish which I've based more on my memories of living in Catalunya than the traditional food of the region, but for me it represents the area just as much as any other recipe I've worked on.

Serves three

Takes 25 minutes (20 cook, 10 prep)

8 small artichokes or 4 large artichokes

4 tbsp olive oil

1 lemon

1 small handful of chives

100g tempura flour

75-100ml sparkling water

400ml vegetable oil

Preheat the grill to 200C.

Cut the top third of each of the artichoke heads and strip back about half of the leaves, then cut them in half, through the hearts, if you have 8, or into quarters if you have 4. Make sure to leave the stem of the artichokes, these will be useful for dipping the hearts into the tempura batter.

Lay the artichoke segments on a baking sheet on a baking tray, face down, drizzle with 2 tbsp of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and grill them for 10 minutes, or until the artichokes have begun to brown.

While the artichokes grill, zest half the lemon and finely chop the zest with the chives, and place them in a small serving jug. Add the juice of the lemon and the remaining olive oil and whisk the dressing until it is well mixed, set aside ready to serve.

Set the vegetable oil on a medium heat in a large pan, at a depth of around 2 fingers.

In a large mixing bowl, slowly whisk the 75 ml of water into the tempura flour, mixing it thoroughly. Add the remaining water slowly if the mix is too thick, it should be a similar consistency to pancake batter.

When the artichokes are ready, remove them from the grill and have them ready to go in the batter. Test the oil with a drop of tempura, it will be ready when the drip starts to sizzle straight away but doesn't splatter.

Using a pair of chopsticks, a tip my brother taught me, or pincers, lower the artichokes heads into the batter by their stalk, submerging them up to the base of the head.

Cook 3 at a time in the batter, turning after a minute or so, and removing after two. The tempura should be a shade of cream to golden, but no more. Once they have been removed from the oil, leave the artichokes on a cloth or paper towel to soak up some oil.

Serve the hearts as soon as they are all cooked, drizzled in the lemon dressing. Avoid eating the stalks as these will be very bitter.

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