Globe Artichoke Recipe Ideas
The Taster is covering artichokes along with hake, gooseberries, cucumber, rabbit, apricots and more in its Summer 2015 issue. If you’d like to get a copy, SUBSCRIBE here.
Pick a great big one! Don’t fiddle around; artichokes should be as dense, heavy and fleshy as possible. Technically in season all year round, they’re actually at their best from June to Christmas. They don’t keep well; ideally, eat on the day you buy, or else treat like a cut flower (cut the bottom of the stem and immediately place in a glass or vase of water).
There are some wonderful wines to try with the simplistic yet delicious artichoke. Try a white Rioja (Sauvignon Blanc and Viura grapes), or Chapel Down’s Bacchus Reserve; a match made not in Heaven (although the taste does suggest some celestial influence has been at work) but Tenterden, Kent.
There are two parts to eating an artichoke. The first is the fleshy bulges at the bottom of the bracts (the petal-like leaves): pick a single bract off the artichoke with your fingers, then nibble the flesh off with your teeth. When you have finished all the bracts, pull the white, fibrous choke away in tufts with your fingers, to reveal the second, most luscious part of the plant — its heart. You can buy tinned hearts, but fresh ones offer both superior taste and less mushy texture.
♦ Plain & simple Boil the artichoke in salted water (about 40 minutes, depending on its size). Pull one bract off to test: it should be easy to nibble the base off. Serve the artichoke whole, pulling off and dipping the bracts in melted butter. One large artichoke is enough for two people. This is a very convivial, tactile, sociable starter; romantic, too, if romance is your goal
♦ With dressings or dips Instead of butter, try dipping the bracts in salad dressing, Hollandaise, Avgolémono, lemon aioli, tartare sauce or mousseline
♦ Hearts in salad The hearts have a distinctive, but mild flavour. They don’t go particularly well with soft lettuce and can seem bland in mayonnaise salads. Lemon juice is your first friend; followed by olive oil, Mediterranean herbs and green olives. Salad meats such as prosciutto, Jamón Ibérico or chorizo contrast nicely with the mild hearts. If you use salad leaves, choose those with a firm personality — rocket is an obvious choice. Mix in the hearts whole or sliced
♦ Hearts in pasta As above, ensure the hearts have strong partners. Try warm hearts and hot sliced sausage on a bed of baby spinach with penne or rigatoni, drizzled with olive oil — or oil from a jar of sundried tomatoes
♦ Grilled hearts Marinate cooked hearts in a favourite salad dressing or a mix of, say, mayonnaise, olive oil, fresh chopped herbs, crushed garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Massage it well into the hearts, then grill to release all the flavours
♦ Braised hearts Chef Lloyd Davies suggests braised artichoke heart as a lovely bit of veg to go into a nice salad
♦ Hearts on pizza Top a pizza with grilled hearts as above, cut into rounds
♦ Hearts in Vermouth A fabulous starter on toast or side-dish for fish. Roughly chop 4 or 5 artichoke hearts and 8 chestnut/oyster mushrooms, and sauté in butter for a few minutes. Add 80ml Noilly Prat and boil till reduced by half. Stir in half a large pot of double cream. Let it thicken, then stir in a heaped teaspoon of chopped sage, the juice of half a lemon, salt and pepper
♦ Carciofini alla Giudea If you happen to visit Italy and see this dish on the menu, do try it. It is very young deep-fried artichoke hearts
The much-admired website Foods Of England has two intriguing recipes: artichoke cream, involving artichoke hearts, cream, egg yolks and sugar; and arterchoak pie by Hannah Glasse, requiring 12 artichoke hearts, 12 boiled egg-yolks, truffles and morels. Cream or pie, either sounds pretty good to us.
Jane Grigson described the artichoke, or ‘noble thistle,’ as ‘the vegetable expression of civilised living, of the long view, of increasing delight by anticipation and crescendo.’ The Italians have a saying, la politica del cardiofo, which means to tackle one political enemy at a time, just as an artichoke can only be consumed one bract at a time.
The artichoke is a member of the thistle family and something of its Scottish cousins’ prickly and independent nature survives in the choke — the hostile clump of bristle that lurks beneath the bracts.
The received wisdom is that artichokes are not easy to grow in the British climate. However The Taster’s aged mother persists, in the stubborn way of old ladies, in harvesting one or two each year from the same death-defying plant which grows unprotected in her garden. Perhaps it’s just a knack.
Never attempt to eat the choke.
For a serving suggestion and practical demonstration of how to eat artichokes correctly, try the first minute of this offering from Armstrong & Miller. (And we hope the following few minutes makes you laugh, too)
Hope that provided a few inspirations. Go back to COOK for more key seasonal foods. As ever — have a good one!