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!
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…
Then we trimmed off the pointy end, to reveal the hairy choke in the centre, which we scooped out with a spoon…
Then we turned them over and trimmed away what remained of the hard, green outer leaves still attched to the base of the ‘choke…
After cutting them in quarters, we threw them in a bowl of water, acidulated with lemon, to halt the discolouration…
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.
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….
Originally uploaded by tostadora.
Here's a quote from Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book
"The artichoke above all is the vegetable expression of civilized living, of the long view, of increasing delight by anticipation and crescendo"
High praise for an edible thistle. Yes, they're very nice but I don't completely buy into them as the lord of all vegetables. Maybe its the way I cooked them. Basically, I followed Grigson's instructions to the letter. Its a very simple recipe:
Soak in salted water for 30 minutes or so. Boil in acidulated water (a tablespoon of vinegar per pint of water) for about 3o minutes. Peel off the leaves, dunk in melted butter and use your teeth to scrape off the soft flesh from the base of each leaf. When you get to the centre, remove the hairy choke carefully and eat the remaining heart.
The soft heart was subtle and lovely – a comforting melting texture. The leaves were fun to pick and scrape at. The whole messy, extended process is the vegetarian equivalent of shelling a crab at the table.
However, we both picked up on a strange metallic after-taste. I've never had it before with artichokes. Anyone have any ideas what could have caused it?? Anyone had the same problem?