THERE are three different types of artichoke, and slightly confusingly, they are unrelated plants. Globe artichokes are related to the thistle, Jerusalem artichokes to the sunflower family and Chinese artichokes are a herb from the mint family.
A globe artichoke is sometimes referred to as the “true” artichoke and is probably one of the most common in cooking.
You’ll find them most of the year round but they’re at their best from June through to about November. If you’re choosing artichokes from your local greengrocer or farmers’ market, it’s best to look out for those that feel quite heavy for their size and a little trick is to gently squeeze the bud. If it squeaks, you’re onto a winner. I recommend you try to eat them the day you buy them or the following day, so you make the most of them truly fresh. Baby artichokes are small globe artichokes but sometimes they look a little different and might not even have a choke. Generally, the smaller artichokes are more tender. If you can’t get hold of fresh artichokes, you can often find really good marinated baby artichokes from your local quality deli.
One of the things I love about globe artichokes is the joy you can get from preparing and eating the entire plant. The leaves of a globe artichoke are edible, as is the bottom part of the flower, which is also known as the heart. Once you’ve enjoyed the wonderful leaves of an artichoke, you can gently cut away the hairs and eat the delicious heart with a simple vinaigrette dressing.
When you peel an artichoke, the exposed flesh quickly oxidises and turns brown. A tip is to drop each of the leaves into a little bowl of water with a dash of lemon juice before you start cooking. It prevents the leaves from browning and they look better on the plate. I also always cook artichokes with stainless steel pans because iron, copper and aluminium cookware can sometimes cause them to discolour.
Often the barrier to using artichokes can be knowing how to cut and prepare them, but it is a lot simpler than you might think. Once you’ve mastered it, it couldn’t be easier. It’s such a wonderful ingredient it needs little in the way of cooking.
You can simply boil or steam the whole artichoke heart, you can scoop out the choke and stuff it with a lovely sauce, and you can pull off the leaves and dip them in vinaigrette, hollandaise sauce, melted or garlic butter. You can even barbecue them or grill them – whatever takes your fancy. The best thing to do when you tuck into the leaves, is to draw the leaf through your teeth to remove the delicious, tender flesh.
ARTICHOKE BARIGOULE WITH CHORIZO
6 large artichokes
juice of 2 lemons
olive oil for cooking
250g good-quality chorizo sausages
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 shallots, peeled and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
250ml white wine
about 500ml chicken stock
sea salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Bouquet garni ingredients
2 leek leaves, washed
handful of parsley sprigs
handful of thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
Chicken stock ingredients:
2kg raw chicken carcasses
3.5 litres water
½ leek (white part), trimmed, washed and roughly chopped
½ white onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
5 white peppercorns
First prepare the artichokes. Fill a large bowl with cold water and add the juice of 1 lemon. Using a small knife, remove the outer leaves from the artichokes. Now carefully peel away the outer skin from the artichokes and stalk. Cut the artichoke hearts into wedges, removing and discarding the feathery choke at the base. Immediately immerse the artichoke wedges in the lemon water.
Heat a heavy-based frying pan or sauté pan (with a lid). Add a drizzle of olive oil, then the chorizo sausages and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes to release the natural oils.
Meanwhile, remove the artichokes from the water and pat dry on kitchen paper. Add them to the pan, put the lid on and sweat gently for 2-3 minutes.
Next add the carrots, shallots, garlic, coriander seeds and bouquet garni. To make the bouquet garni, lay one leek leaf flat on a board, put the herb sprigs and bay leaf on top and cover with the other leek leaf. Tie with kitchen string to secure. Add the juice of the other lemon and put the lid back on. Sweat together for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally; this will release a lot of flavour.
Pour in the white wine and reduce right down until dry, then ladle in enough chicken stock to just cover the ingredients. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or until all the vegetables are cooked, adding more stock as it reduces. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. Scatter over the chopped parsley before serving.
To make 2 litres of chicken stock
Remove any excess fat from the chicken carcasses and roughly chop them up. Place in a large saucepan and pour on the cold water to cover. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes, skimming frequently to remove impurities that float to the surface. Add the chopped vegetables, herbs, peppercorns and a little salt. Simmer gently for a further 1½ hours.
Pass the chicken stock through a fine sieve into a bowl, allow to cool and then refrigerate until required. Remove any fat from the surface before using. This stock can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days or frozen for 3-4 months.
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
200ml vegetable oil
salt and pepper
Preparing the artichokes
Remove the tough outer leaves of the artichokes and snap off the stalks. Carefully trim off the top spiky leaves with a sharp knife and discard. Bring a large pan of water to the boil – do not use aluminium or iron pans as they can cause the artichokes to discolour. Add the lemon juice, then the artichokes. A useful tip is to put an old plate on top of the artichokes to keep them submerged so they cook evenly. Simmer, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, or until one of the outer leaves pulls away easily. Drain well.
Making the vinaigrette
Mix the mustard and vinegar in a bowl using a hand whisk. Gently pour in the oil and mix with a hand blender until the vinaigrette is properly emulsified. As it thickens, add about 50ml water and taste for seasoning.
Serve the artichokes warm with the vinaigrette alongside. Gently remove the leaves one at a time and dip them in the dressing before eating.