HOW TO COOK AN ARTICHOKE
As tends to be the case with great ingredients, keep it simple. Boil until tender enough to pull the lower leaves off without resistance. Melt butter and add a little salt and a squeeze of lemon over the top, then use the leaves to scoop up the sauce – three examples of which I’ve given the recipes for opposite.
Artichoke recipes: three dips for your perfectly boiled artichoke
Peel four garlic cloves and bring to a simmer in milk. Discard the milk and blend the garlic with a drained tin of anchovies. While the blender is on, dribble in 100g each of olive oil and melted butter.
Pulse together a large handful of basil and a small bunch
of parsley and mint, along with a peeled garlic clove, a tablespoon of red-wine vinegar, two tablespoons of drained capers and six anchovies. Add extra-virgin olive oil and blend until you have a soft scoopable consistency.
Blend a square of feta with a little yogurt and the juice and grated zest of an unwaxed lemon until the mix is smooth, light and speckled with yellow.
THE INGREDIENT: ARTICHOKE
BY CHEF AND FOOD WRITER JO WEINBERG
The artichoke is a thistle – there’s no getting around it. But that’s where the bad news ends. The rest is all flavour and beauty. Although its name – derived from the Arabic al-haruf – indicates a Middle Eastern origin, the globe artichoke has been the aristocrat of the Mediterranean vegetable garden since the Renaissance. While there are records of its wild cousin, the cardoon, being eaten in ancient Greece and Rome (Pliny the Elder was a fan), the artichoke came into fashion thanks to the obsession of the Medici in Florence, François I and his court in Touraine and our own Henry VIII. Legend has it that Catherine de’ Medici ate so much of the stuff at a wedding feast that she almost burst.
The artichoke is easily grown, flourishing as far north as the Orkneys, and can be a beautiful, silvery presence in a garden border with its sculptural fronds and bright purple flower. It’s not just its prickles that we bow before: it has a delicacy of taste and texture that very few other vegetables come close to.
At the table, it has remained a favourite for people who mind about good food and are willing to work for it. The eating of an artichoke is an expression of civilised living. It cannot happen quickly. It must be properly prepared and cooked; even then, you need to pull each leaf one at a time and scrape the flesh off with your teeth. Finally, there is the tricky choke to deal with and discard before reaching the fleshy pleasures of its heart.
Every country approaches the plant differently. The French boil and eat it with acidulated butter. The Spanish like to use it smaller and younger, sprinkled with olive oil, included in paellas, or sautéed and mixed with eggs in tortillas. Various regions of Italy will make the artichoke the star of a risotto or pasta dish, as well as the key spring ingredient of a pizza quattro stagioni. The Greeks make a hearty vegetable stew with potatoes and carrots, flavoured with onion, lemon and dill. Throughout North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey and Armenia, it is often stuffed with minced lamb and spices: in Lebanon, the typical filling includes onion, tomato, pine nuts, raisins, parsley, mint, pepper and allspice.
THE BEST WINE TO PAIR WITH ARTICHOKE RECIPES
BY MALCOLM GLUCK
If that were not obstacle enough, we are here presented with three versions of the impossible: artichoke with feta, artichoke with a sauce containing anchovies and, thirdly, artichoke with a sauce containing not just anchovies but also capers and red-wine vinegar. At such a time as this, the wine writer might be forgiven for throwing up his hands and announcing his retirement. But that would be impolite and so we must soldier on and deliver three perfect matches for those three artichoke dishes.
The first thing to say is that only white wines are suitable partners here. Reds cannot cope, although with the artichoke and feta sauce, a marvellous magnum of Aix rosé 2016 (£26.99 at Majestic) irresistibly comes to mind. This is a robust pink wine of great elegance and bite and, if you’re catering for a crowd, the magnum makes for a impressive presence at the table.
For the artichoke with anchovies, we move further north to the Rhône. Domaine Clape’s Saint Péray 2016 (£32 a bottle at Yapp Brothers) is a curiously robust white wine – how else could it deal with artichoke? – yet it has a delicate floral and fruity perfume reminiscent of apricots with a far distant hint of anis. It’s utterly delicious and superbly classy with a very long finish. That is to say the flavour lingers after the wine has quit the throat. However, could it handle the salsa verde? Doubtful. This version of the impossible calls for a very special wine indeed – unique in all the world, made nowhere else. Of course, the Riesling grape is grown elsewhere (and the so-called New World, it must be said, grows it rather well), but only Germany produces young yet dazzlingly multi-layered Rieslings of sufficient heft to match thistle with a sauce containing not just anchovies but capers and vinegar.
Bassermann-Jordan 2015 Ungeheuer Riesling Grand Cru is simply exquisite, with all the qualities to handle the food and still emerge smiling and tasting of itself. It has a saline minerality, which is perfect for our needs. It costs £36.50 a bottle at the UK’s most enterprising German-wine merchant, The Wine Barn. Decant the Ungeheuer 12 hours before serving and keep it in the fridge. It opens up wonderfully as the air gets to it and works its magic.
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