I always come back energized after spending some time in Rome. It might be the chaos, the nonsensicalness of the traffic, the cloud of smells and colours, the power of hidden flavours. What astonishes me every time I pay a visit to my favourite European city is the conscious awareness of being Italian.

No matter what the temperature is like, Italians wear what etiquette a' la moda dictates. If it is April you couldn't possibly wear sandals and shorts not matter what the temperature is. And meals, still being such a serious affair, are timed around the clock and seasons.

March is the beginning of the season for “carciofi romaneschi”, Roman artichokes. These globe-shaped vegetables were known to Romans and apparently were attributed even aphrodisiac qualities so much that carciofi or Cynara was, in fact, a girl seduced by Jupiter and then transformed into an artichoke (he was a very hilarious God!...). And did you know that Marilyn Monroe won the prize of “Queen of Artichokes” at Castroville in California? The word itself sounds funny to me (in Italian). My grandmother often said "sei proprio un carciofo" (you are really an artichoke) meaing " you are really awkward, gullible". Why?

Carciofi Romani

I find artichokes the quintessential ingredient of Roman cuisine. The most famous way of preparing them is alla giudia, “in the Jewish style”, because, originally, it was up to Jewish housewives in the Ghetto in Rome to prepare them to break the 24 hour fasting of the Kippur, “atonement day”, during which nobody is allowed to eat, drink, work or carry out any type of activities.

The following is a recipe which I think glorifies the earthy and yet silky taste of artichokes.

Carciofi in umido con le uova (stewed with eggs)

For 4 people

* 5 artichokes;
* 1 garlic clove;
* 2 tbsp olive oil;
* 1 vegetable stock or broth;
* 1/2 glass white wine;
* 1/2 glass lukewarm water;
* 3 eggs;
* 2 tbsp flour;

1. Peel the artichokes. Cut the stalk and using a knife detach the outer leaves until you get to a softer layer. Continue removing some of the other leaves keeping a finger on the basis of the leaf and tearing with a knife so that the bottom of the leaf remains attached. Do not get shocked by the amount of artichokes you will waste - the first time I did it I was!

2. Cut the "hearts " into quarters. Toss them in flour and then shake them of any excess.

3. In a large pan fry them in olive oil with the crushed garlic and mix them well to ensure they get coated in the oil.

4. Add the stock or broth to the mixture. Continue cooking and tossing.

5. Add the water and wine and cover with the lid for at least 10 minutes. Stir continuously until they become soft. You will see that a juicy and flavorful sauce gets formed.

6. In a bowl break the eggs, whisk them and season with salt, pepper and grated pecorino romano. Add the eggs to the artichokes stirring quickly to ensure they cook thoroughly.

Serve with fresh bread and a glass of red wine.

When visiting Rome, if you want to taste a great plate of artichokes I would recommend you go to "Da sora Margherita" (sora means sorella) nel Ghetto where you can find traditional dishes at a very reasonable price. Or you could simply make these artichokes at home if you are lucky enough to find them. I have decided to grow them myself in our new little allotment!