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Artichokes alla Misse

Introduction

We have been growing artichokes in the garden, but I mistakenly planted a globe variety. I have decided to let these bloom (see photo below) and will then replace them with 'violet de provence' artichokes for next year.

Catherine de Medici is credited with introducing Artichokes to the French Court in the first half of the 16th Century. By the end of the century artichokes were cultivated throughout France, Spain and Italy. Britian never succumbed to the artichoke's charms and to this day, they are a rarer sight.

This recipe uses the 'violet' variety of artichoke. This variety is normally about 5cm\2 inches in diameter and more elongated than the globe varieties.

I have given a lot of visual tips on handling artichokes to help those less familiar with them.

Artichokes blooming in the garden

Tips

Always feel the stalks before buying artichokes. If they are fresh, the stalks will be firm. As the artichoke ages the stalk dries out, the leaves dry too and the flavour will be inferior.

Artichokes will keep for 3-5 few days. Trim an inch off the stalks, wrap them in a damp cloth and store in a cool place.

Artichokes, the initial cut

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 6-8 artichokes (the violet ones are often sold in bunches)
  • 3-4 tablespoons Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Juice of ½ lemon

Removing the dry outer leaves

Tools of the Trade

  • If you don't want the artichokes to discolour, prepare a bowl of acidulated water (e.g. water with lemon juice) to drop them in as they are prepared. This is optional as the flavour is not affected
  • You may wish to wear gloves while handling artichokes as they can temporarily discolour your fingertips

Tender green leaves

Method

Cut the stalk off right next to the base, then cut right through the bulb about half way down.

Pull off the outer leaves until you are left with tender green leaves. The number of leaves removed depends on the freshness of the artichoke; I normally remove 3-5 layers.

Trimming the base

 

Trim the bases, then cut into quarters lengthways.

Cut away the choke, if present, and place the artichoke quarters in the acidulated water. The choke is a cluster of immature florets at the center of the artichoke, which become this if allowed to bloom.

Removing the choke

 

Place the artichoke quarters in a pan or skillet, just big enough to hold them in one layer. Barely cover with water, add half of the olive oil, a pinch of salt and some coarsely ground black pepper.

Bring to the boil on a high heat and continue to boil until all the water has evaporated.

Cooking the artichoke quarters

 

Once the water has evaporated, remove from the heat, add the lemon juice, the rest of the olive oil and toss the artichokes. Sprinkle with a little more pepper and serve with lots of crusty bread.

Suggestion

For a richer version, replace the olive oil with unsalted butter. Add all of the butter when cooking, then add the lemon juice and 3-4 tablespoons of cream, toss and serve.