In love with artichokes
If you haven’t cooked with raw artichokes then you are missing a trick. Some people just don’t understand what the fuss is, while others like me can’t walk past a greengrocer without hyperventilating. Admittedly, the big globes are a pain but the babies are easy. Twice a year they pop into the market, end of winter-early spring and again in autumn. You won’t find them in Tesco’s or the big supermarkets, but greengrocers, Whole foods or farmers markets stock them when in season. Cook them with lemon, mint, parsley or white wine and you are in for one of life’s greatest treats. Pair with grilled chops, mix in pasta, stuff with sausage or stew as vegetable ragout; their luscious flesh can be used in many guises.
If you’re confused about peeling them then watch a few YouTube videos (choose the baby artichoke demos not globe) to get your confidence. Snap off the outer leaves until you reach the tender bits, trim the top inch off with a knife and then peel the stem and base with a vegetable peeler. Halve lengthways and then drop into water mixed with lemon juice. Like avocados, they turn black quickly unless you rub them with citrus. Your life would be a lot easier if you lived in Sicily. Little grannies sell them by the roadside, peeled and prepared in big buckets. That’s proper drive-in service.
Warm baby artichoke ragout with tomatoes and olives
preparation time 40 minutes
cooking time 20 minutes
12 baby artichokes
2 lemons juiced
1 medium yellow onion chopped
1 large carrot peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves chopped
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fresh thyme chopped
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley chopped
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp honey
250ml/12fl oz/1 cup white wine
125ml/4fl oz/1/2 cup vegetable stock
10 cherry tomatoes
8 oil-cured black olives halved
Fill a large bowl with water and lemon juice and prepare the artichokes as described above. You need to trim them pretty far back until you reach the tender pale green leaves. Drop into the water until using. You can leave them overnight if you like at this point.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the carrot, onion, garlic and some salt and pepper. Saute for 5 minutes and then add the artichokes, herbs, vinegar, honey, wine and stock. Cover and cook over medium high heat for 6 minutes. Lower the heat and cook another 10. The artichokes should be knife tender at this point and if not, cook for a little longer. Drop in the tomatoes and olives and taste for additional salt and pepper. Scoop into bowls and serve with rocket salad and crusty bread.