I really like raw artichoke with fish. Dressed in lemony oil with plenty of pepper, it adds a bright, nutty lift. Choose firm artichokes with tightly closed leaves; artichokes with woody or sagging stems are best rejected.
4-5 baby artichokes (or 2-3 larger)
2 lemons, 1 juiced
80ml extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely grated
freshly ground black pepper
16 butterflied sardine fillets (see below)
1 handful celery leaves - the pale-yellow inner leaves from the heart of a bunch
10 dried black olives, pitted and torn
2 tbsp pinenuts, toasted
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1. To prepare the artichokes, remove most of the outer leaves until you see light yellow flesh. Cut off the top few centimetres of leaves. Trim the stalk, leaving just a few centimetres and pare away the outer skin of the stalk to reveal the light green inner flesh. Remove any tough outer leaves until you reach leaves that are an even yellow. Immediately rub the entire surface of the artichoke with a cut lemon to stop discolouration. If your artichokes are more mature you might need to remove the tough choke from the centre.
2. For the dressing, mix together the oil, the lemon juice, the garlic, a generous pinch of salt and 15 grinds of pepper.
3. Finely shave the artichokes on a mandolin directly into the dressing. Toss, making sure to coat well.
4. Add a splash of oil to a frying pan over high heat. Season the sardine fillets with salt and pepper and sear skin side down for two minutes. Remove from the pan and place on a serving platter, skin side up - the fish will finish cooking while it rests.
5. Spread the artichokes over the sardines. Scatter over the celery leaves, olives and pinenuts. Sprinkle over the chilli powder and spoon over any remaining dressing. You could also plate this individually for a more composed entree.
Tip: To fillet your own sardines, remove the head and slice down the belly all the way to the tail. Remove the innards and rinse under water. Open the fillet out and place it flesh side down on your board; with your fingers press down firmly along the backbone. Flip the sardine over and gently peel the spine away from the flesh (head to tail), taking as many of the fine bones with it as you can. Trim any ragged edges and scrape away any stray bones.
See a video on how to prepare artichokes and chestnuts.