I’ve been quiet these last few weeks as I’ve been touring around France and Spain, camping and meeting up with friends along the way. Food was of course a key factor in trip planning, and naturally I cruised by a few local markets along the way. The best were those in Nérac in the Lot-et-Garonne department in southwest France, and in Potes in the Picos de Europe in Spain.
At the markets, in between purple garlic, exciting cheeses and perfect white peaches, globe artichokes always caught my attention. Memories abound of eating steamed artichokes in the sun at Chateau Ventenac while on Rachel Demuth’s French Cookery Holiday. We dipped the leaves in all manners of dipping sauces that we made ourselves (my favourite had to be hollandaise, naturally).
I wanted to buy every artichoke I saw last week, but artichokes aren’t exactly campfire friendly (or are they?) and I wasn’t really sure how to prepare them anyway. But now that I’m back from my trip and with a real kitchen at my disposal, I decided to bring a little of France to the Cotswolds and learn how to cook artichokes at home.
What really precipitated all of this was a visit last weekend from my friend Marie from Lanyon Cottages in Cornwall. She also just returned from France and had her own gnarly artichoke tales to tell. Credit to the chef: she’s the one who made them. And they were marvellous! An apt match for the Estrella Damm Beer we “stole” from Waitrose (not really stole, but took back from a dude who proudly took the last two bottles, but relinquished one to us after his girlfriend looked at him disapprovingly and said: “you took the last bottle?”).
How to cook artichokes
Artichokes are easier to deal with than they look. To prepare them, slice about an inch off the tip of the artichoke, then trim the sharp tips of the leaves with scissors. Trim the stem if necessary, leaving about an inch of stem on the artichoke. Peel the stems with a vegetable peeler.
Put the artichokes in a steamer basket and steam for 20-45 minutes, or until the outer leaves can easily be pulled off.
How to eat artichokes
Tear off the outer leaves and dip the fleshy white bit into melted butter (as Marie and I did) or hollandaise sauce. Use your teeth to scrape out the soft tasty bit of the leaf, then discard it. Repeat with the rest of the leaves until you get to the fuzzy part of the artichoke (“choke”).
This fuzzy stuff is prickly and inedible (as I found out last weekend when I tried to eat it!), so scrape it out. You’re left with the “heart”, arguably the best part of the artichoke! Cut it into pieces if you’d like (or just eat it whole with your hands like I do).
Also seen on Great British Chefs.