This is another beautiful, simple dish that relies totally on the quality and freshness of its ingredients. Italians call dishes like this salad, even though they’re made almost entirely of seafood and – as in this instance – include only baby artichokes as the vegetable. Feel free to use any sort of seafood or fish here, just make sure it’s high quality. Do the same with the olive oil. The one I’ve used is a product from an absolutely stunning Venetian island called Isola delle Rose, which was built during the Fascist era and now boasts an amazing resort as well as a 100-year-old olive grove.
12 baby artichokes
2 whole spider or swimmer crabs
400g mussels, vongole or razor clams
400g raw large prawns, unpeeled
4 scampi or langoustines
200g fresh mixed pickled wild or cultivated herbs (chervil, parsley, oregano, micro basil and micro chard)
100mL extra virgin olive oil
2 lemon cheeks or wedges
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
To cook artichokes, put them whole in a pan of cold salted water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10-20 minutes, or until just cooked through to the centre (you can check this with a skewer).
Once artichokes are cooked, remove from water and leave to cool. Gently remove outer leaves until you reach leaves that are tender enough to eat. Trim base of each artichoke, removing fibrous exterior. Set aside until ready to use, they are served whole.
Prepare crabs by removing outer shells and feathery gills. Wash and chop in half.
If using vongole, soak them in cold salted water overnight to remove excess sand. Prepare mussels by removing beards and cleaning the shells. Prepare razor clams by cleaning shells.
De-vein prawns and scampi by using a toothpick to pierce the back of the head to a depth of a few millimetres, then lift up the end of the toothpick and scoop out alimentary vein. Pull gently to remove.
Using a large steamer or steaming oven, steam shellfish for about 5-10 minutes, or until cooked. All mussels and clams should have opened, all shellfish will take about the same time to cook depending on size.
Once cooked, remove and place baby artichokes into steamer to heat for about 1-2 minutes.
In a small bowl, season herbs with sea salt and pepper, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and mix together.
Serve everything warm on a big platter with lemon cheeks and scattered herbs. The scampi and prawns can be served whole, cut in half, completely or partially peeled.
Serve with finger bowls.