Artichokes come on line in mid-October, which means by November they are in full swing.
We meet many people in store each week and talk food and deliciousness and artichokes are something that catches’ many people’s attention, but are seen as a way too hard vegetable to deal with. We hear more end up in vases than in the pot! We want to change that, so have an Artichokes 101 for you to help take that brave step!
A member of the thistle family, artichokes and cardoons (a member of the sunflower family that bears a resemblance to a thistle) both have edible bases and hearts and just need a little preparation to be a wonderful springtime vegetable. A native to the Mediterranean area, it’s more common for us to enjoy the efforts of others when it comes to artichokes and eat them brined and canned, but we want to help you get that artichoke to the pot!
Select your artichoke
Choose a heavy-feeling globe with closed leaves and a firm stem. As they age, the leaves will spread. End-of-season artichokes, in particular, become very fibrous. Keep them refrigerated at all times.
How to prepare an artichoke
Cut or trimmed artichokes discolour very fast so only need to be prepared as they are about to be cooked. Acidulated water (lemon juice mixed into water) will help prepared artichokes from browning.
Trim each stalk with enough stem remaining so you can hold it easily, and the upper area of the stem is very tender so should not be wasted.
Remove the first few layers of leaves until you reach the more yellow-green base of the stem. Rub all the exposed surfaces with lemon. Trim any spiky leaves with kitchen scissors and then trim the whole globe by a third. Again, rub the exposed surfaces with lemon.
As the outer leaves are very bitter, wash your hands well before handling any other foods.
Drop the trimmed globes into boiling salted water and keep them submerged for 15 mins or until a skewer pushed into the heart can be easily inserted. Remove and drain before serving with a finger bowl. Seasoning with extra virgin olive oil, salt and plenty of black pepper to serve is the best and simplest way to enjoy a fresh artichoke.
Using a steamer or bamboo basket, steam the artichokes over boiling water for 15-20 mins or until a skewer pushed into the heart can be inserted easily. In some cases, this can take up to 30 mins.
Precooking in advance of frying is recommended, so follow the boiling or steaming steps and refrigerate until needed. Half or quarter the artichokes or cut as desired and deep fry as-is or with a light batter. We love a light polenta and parmesan batter for a crunchy and decadent artichoke.
Stevie Parlie, from the very famous Dock Kitchen in London, has a great recipe with artichokes and preserved lemons that we love. Stevie worked at River Café and Moro – two of our favourite and highly influential restaurants as they focus on simple ways to cook and bring out the best in seasonal produce.