Radicchio is both delicious and beautiful to look a t, at a time of year when there is not a great deal of choice growing above ground. The tightly packed leaves have w3hite ribs with a shadow of sweetness to their bite, while the leaf itself is wine-red and tastes slightly bitter. I like to retain some of its crunchy texture when cooking it, as it reminds me of the cold winter soil it came from.
2 fresh red chillies, cut in half lengthways, deseeded
4 artichokes (preferably the winter Violetto variety - look for smaller buds with purple staining on the outer leaves)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 small dried red chillies (optional)
3 tbsp. dry white wine (optional) or water
1 large or 2 small bulbs of fennel, base and feathery fronds trimmed off
1 head of radicchio
200g buffalo ricotta
1 small bunch of fresh marjoram, leaves picked from their stems, washed and dried
Sea salt and black pepper
Heat the griddle or barbeque. Put the fresh chillies in a bowl with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper.
Cut the end of each artichoke stem, leaving 1cm still attached. To the main bulb: pull the outer bud leaves off until they start to reveal the choke. Cut the end of just above the artichoke heart. With a spoon, scoop out the choke. Slice the artichoke through the stem into 5mm-thick slices, then put the slices into a bowl of cold water with the lemon and its juice. Remove them from the water once they are all prepared and pat dry on kitchen paper.
Heat a little olive oil in a heavy based pan, add the artichoke slices and toss them in the oil for a minute or two, then add the garlic and let it colour. Season with salt and pepper and add the dry chillies (if using).
Add the wine (if using) or water, put a lid on and turn the heat down.
Let the artichokes simmer for 5-10 minutes, then take the lid off and let the remaining liquid evaporate so that the artichokes turn golden in the oil. Keep warm.
Slice the fennel in half through the stem and then slice again as thinly as you can. Keeping a little of the stem attached so that the bulb layers stay intact. Grill the fennel slices on a hot griddle on both sides until charred. Once they are ready put them into a dish.
Remove the outer, older leaves from the radicchio and cut in half through the stem, then slice each half into eights or twelfths depending of the size of the radicchio. Grill on both sides just until the outer sides are a little charred but the inside of the wedges still has some bite.
Cut the ricotta into slices a good 1cm thick (or you can spoon it onto the plates). Divide the artichokes, radicchio and fennel evenly among the plates, then add a slice of the ricotta. Trickle a little fresh chilli over the ricotta and sprinkle the marjoram leaves over the top. Drizzle some oil over and season with salt and pepper. You may want to serve this with some bruschetta.