Season: Best from June to November
It would be hard to find a prettier vegetable than the globe artichoke: its presence animates any table display.
Although they were once very popular in Britain, the biggest crop now comes from Brittany in the late spring. It may be, with the waning of their popularity, that people do not know how to prepare and eat them.
So first let me explain that globe artichokes are – as indeed they look – (the bottom parts of which are edible), the choke (inedible) and the heart which is very edible.
How to prepare and cook artichokes
First remove about four of the toughest outer leaves, then place the artichoke at the edge of a table so that the stalk overlaps the edge. Grasp the stalk and snap away the stem, removing also some of the tough fibres running up into the base.
Now remove the inedible choke: carefully spread the leaves apart until you come to the central cone of thinner, lightly coloured leaves. Then pull this cone out in one piece and underneath it you’ll find the hairy ‘choke’ –scrape this all out of the heart with a teaspoon, and add a little lemon juice to stop the inside discolouring. Now rinse out the artichokes and leave them upside down in some cold water to which some more lemon juice has been added (about 1 tablespoon to 2 pints /1.2 litres of water) until you are ready to cook them.
Don’t boil artichokes in iron or aluminium pans, as this can discolour them.
Have your chosen pan ready filled with salted boiling water with a tablespoon of lemon juice or white wine vinegar added. Gently boil the artichokes, uncovered, for about 30-40 minutes or until one of the outer leaves pulls away easily and the bases feel tender when tested with a skewer. Then drain the artichokes upside down in a colander, shaking them to get rid of the excess water.
How to eat artichokes
This does have its comic side, with ever-mounting piles of discarded leaves scarred with rabbit-toothed marks! Artichokes can be served cold or, perhaps better, just tepid. Pull off one leaf at a time, dip it into the sauce and eat the tender rounded part at the base. When you arrive at the heart, cut it into sections with a knife and fork and eat with the rest of the sauce. Don’t forget to have plenty of napkins, some finger bowls, and a large plate for the discarded leaves.
Sauces for artichokes
To serve warm I would recommend Hollandaise Sauce or hot lemon butter, which is simply the juice and grated rind of a lemon plus 6 oz (175 g) butter, melted together until bubbling and poured immediately in the cavity of each artichoke. For serving cold I suggest either Vinaigrette Dressing or some home-made mayonnaise with garlic.
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