Globe Artichokes and the End of Civilisation

June 25, 2007

Bloggers are destroying culture, corrupting young minds and bringing about the end of all good things. Its official, I’ve just heard it on the Today programme. Well, hearing this inspired me to log on and drive one more rusty nail of misinformation into the coffin of civilisation. Hurrah!

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For me, globe artichokes are something of an enigma. They promise so much and rarely deliver, like a vegetable Tim Henman. Yet my Italian friend Tiziana goes into raptures about them, claiming them as the noblest of all veggies, lording it even over the mighty aubergine. My guess is that like all fine and subtle flavours, the artichoke is an acquired taste, and one that is best experienced in context – on a sultry evening in Venice, rather than a dank and dreary afternoon in Haringey.

We found ourselves with a glut of globe ‘chokes last week, having ordered an extra 2kg bag along with the ones that arrived, unadvertised, in the box itself. Neither of us really knew how to prepare them, and it took a while scouring crusty old Italian tomes for instructions before we felt confident enough to begin.

We made a right pig’s ear of the first few, which came out looking scraggy, misshapen and not particularly noble. Gradually, we realised you’ve got to be merciless in stripping off all the green tough bits, which probably accounts for over 50% of the whole. The compost bin had more ‘choke in it than the pan by the time we’d finished – a case of natural over-packaging?

So, firstly, we snapped off the stalks, then yanked off the hard, green outer leaves…

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Then we trimmed off the pointy end, to reveal the hairy choke in the centre, which we scooped out with a spoon…

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Then we turned them over and trimmed away what remained of the hard, green outer leaves still attched to the base of the ‘choke…

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After cutting them in quarters, we threw them in a bowl of water, acidulated with lemon, to halt the discolouration…

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We decided to thinly slice them and bung them in a gratin with sliced potatoes and onions, which we cooked in a slow oven for about an hour. A healthy sprinkling of parmesan and a quick flash under the grill finished it off nicely.

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And now having written this post, I can hear a terrible cracking noise. Oh my God, could this be civilisation falling down around my ears? Quick, run for cover….

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15 Responses to “Globe Artichokes and the End of Civilisation”

  1. Joanna Says:

    There’s another way, my children’s summer favourite. – Cut down the stalks (that’s all the prep needed), put them in a pan of water, and boil them until the outer leaves pull away easily). This will take around an hour, depending on size. Drain them, put them upside down in the colander for at least five minutes for all the water to drain away, and then serve them, one to a plate. Put an upside down fork under each plate to tilt it, and then pour either melted butter, or vinaigrette, or plain olive oil into the bottom of the plate. The diner then pulls off the leaves, one by one, dips it into the dressing, then pulls the “meat” (sorry, can’t think of a better word!) off the end of the leaf before discarding it into the colander, which you have put in the middle of the table. Then, when all the leaves are eaten, you pull away the choke, taking care to remove every last hair, and eat the heart which has been revealed. All the work of preparation is transferred to the diner, and in general they love it.

    If you are lucky enough to have very small artichokes, then you can halve or quarter them and stew them in oil and herbs. In which case you’d need to remove quite a lot of their outer leaves (I have blogged about this fairly recently).

    All my children love them done the easy / messy way, and always have done, even at their most vegetable-hating.

    Joanna
    joannasfood.blogspot.com

  2. gastropunk Says:

    Joanna, thanks for the recipe. we’ve tried the cook-em-whole-and-dive-right-in technique before – and it’s a lot of fun. up there with eating a fresh boiled crab at the table for messy, sticky fun. we had about 20 artichokes so if we’d have done it this way, we’d probably still be at it. but there’s certainly less waste done this way…

  3. Sheila Says:

    I will make sure Graham reads your recipe. After a childhood of eating the artichokes as listed in the recipe from Joanna, he had sworn off them forever (I think the leaves and the hair were too much for him). Living in New Orleans a delicious Spinach Artichoke dip was a common appearence at parties and on menus (there are many versions of the recipe). I reintroduced the vegetable here and then moved onto Artichoke pizzas and in salads. I think he is definitely ready for a gratined version.

  4. gastropunk Says:

    sheila, the spinach artichoke dip sounds good – i’ll search out a recipe and give it a go. hope the kitchen renovations are going well…

  5. amalee issa Says:

    I am stunned. Finally I have the confidence to tackle artichokes. I’ve put off trying them for years because I had no idea how to even begin to prepare them, and couldn’t find a visual description anywhere. Thank you, thank you, thank you, (or is that too much praise?) Gastropunk n mathschick, have you considered going on the telly?
    Amalee

  6. gastropunk Says:

    glad the visuals are of use amalee. we were nervous about preparing ‘chokes to start with, but soon got into the swing. i think the key is not to worry about how much of the veg you’re throwing away – be ruthless in cutting away all hard green bits. good luck! telly? lol

  7. Sally Says:

    I love artichokes on pizza – have you tried that?

  8. gastropunk Says:

    I got to admit I’m not a fan of artichokes on pizza. I prefer my pizzas minimal – tomato, mozarella, olives, anchovies, maybe basil. That’s about it. Worst pizza I ever had was a cranberry jelly and turkey pizza in Wellington, NZ. Absolutely vile. There are many terrible gastro-crimes perpetrated in the name of pizza.

  9. Mickey York Says:

    Have only just caught up with your artichoke experience but I thought I should warn everyone – never, never put all the outside leaves down the waste disposal unit or you’ll find yourself with a hefty bill for unblocking it!

  10. amalee issa Says:

    Hello gastropunk n maths chick. I’ve been tagged by Mr Antrope http://misanthropeandglory.blogspot.com/
    and now have to tag 8 blogs that I like, and would like to share with others. would you mind if I tagged your blog?

    amalee

  11. gastropunk Says:

    mickey, thanks for the drainage tip. unfortunately we don’t have a waste disposal, so i can’t test run your advice…

  12. gastropunk Says:

    amalee, please do 🙂

  13. Blower Vacs Says:

    Turkey and Cranberry Jelly Pizza. That really does not sound too good.

    Re tim henman… meeyoww!! 🙂

  14. amalee issa Says:

    Hi gastropunk n mathschick, kindly consider yourselves tagged!

    amalee


  15. […] doesn’t seem to be updated that often, there was nothing posted during July for example, but globe artichokes featured in June alongside […]


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