Artichokes are weird. The word is weird, they look weird and they taste weird. And if that wasn’t enough two vegetables share this name and they are about as alike as asparagus and carrots. Today we are dealing with globe artichokes. There is a sweetness about them that is enticing.
There is something alien about the globe artichoke. Perhaps it is something to do with their similarity to the Triffids. They are also great big thistly things with nice spikey leaves and they are generally uninviting until you get to know them.
My favourite way of eating the artichoke has the added attraction of being the easiest to prepare – cut off the stalk, hold it in your hand and bang the opening against the work surface. Through the opening sprinkle salt, pepper and olive oil in that order and then bake upright at 200 with fan (220 without) for one hour. (Put in some baked potatoes too, they take the same amount of time).You will have a blackened crispy thing that looks hopeless but become intensly delicious as you work your way in, nibbling off the base of each leaf. To, my mind, it knocks spots off boiled artichokes.
They go well in stews and are good braised too. Below is the recipe for Italian Artichokes a la Romana.
Artichokes a la Romana
1 small bunch of parsley
1 small bunch of mint
3 cloves of garlic
Cut the stalk off about 5 cm from the base and peel them. Pull of the outer leaves of each artichoke until you get to the paler, softer leaves. Cut off the top part of the leaves about 5cm above the base. Stick a teaspoon into the heart and scoop out the choke.
Chop the herbs and garlic together and mix with salt and pepper. Spoon some of the mixture into the centre and rub some more in between the leaves.
In a pan that will hold them all fairly compactly, heat some olive oil and then fry the artichokes upside down on a medium high heat until beginning to brown. Pour in some water until the bottom is just covered. Put a lid on, turn to low and simmer until they are soft, about 15 mins. Serve them with a squeeze of lemon.