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.
We have started experimenting with some of the classic French hors-d'oeuvre. We covered Tapenade last week as it is popular in summer, but celeri remoulade, champignons à la Grecque and grated carrot salad are ubiquitous, available mass-produced in every French supermarket, and most taste as boring and predictable as store-bought coleslaw.
Our starting point has been the notion that something becomes popular and enters the realm of 'classic' because it is or was good, likely very good. As time moves on and once industrial manufacturing gets involved, there may be little of the original 'classic' left.
There have been olive pastes and concoctions around the mediterranean for centuries, but this dish is relatively recent. It was the invention of Chef Meynier of 'La Maison Dorée' in Marseilles and dates from the 1880s. My version uses a higher proportion of olives and includes lemon zest for added zing.