|Photos by Simon Lambert|
If i had one last request i would certainly have globe artichokes high on my list. I adore these thistle like plants which i often ponder on how they realised that behind all those sharp spikes and tough leaves that there lies a small, succulent heart with a flavour not found in any other food. If you haven't seen how they grow you will be surprised, the actual plant can grow up to 1.4 metres in height and nearly as wide. The artichoke grows on top of a strong, proud stalk which holds it up high for all to see. There are numerous varieties and are extensively grown and consumed in Europe. However i came across an amazing lady and gardener (here in Dunedin) whose passion and obsession was also the Artichoke, Mia Mistral. Thank you for the exceptional quality, knowledge and amazing array of organically grown vegetables you have enriched our lives with!
I think my obsession came for them whilst working at the River Cafe in London. When they were in season we would get wooden crate after wooden crate arriving at the door. I never realised you could eat them in so many ways and with so many things.
Experiences like that never leave me, i can close my eyes and remember exactly how it tasted! For me it was a huge turning point in my cooking career as i saw how keeping ingredients as natural as possible and always cooking in season was the answer!
POACHED ARTICHOKES WITH MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE
This is a great way of introducing yourself to preparing, cooking and eating artichokes. They can seem a little foreign and confusing, wondering where to begin can be a challenge in itself.
It may seem a little crazy on explaining on how to devour them as well, but to enjoy the whole experience you have to pull the leaves off one by one, dip them into the mustardy dressing, then scrape off the tender flesh from the base of the leaf with your teeth. When all the leaves are gone, pull out and discard the furry, chalky bits (the choke), so you can finally eat the heart! it is worth the palava
For the artichokes:
3 litres water
3 Tbsp salt
4 large globe artichokes
4 slices of lemon
For the mustard vinaigrette:
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
5 Tbsp water
a pinch of salt
a pinch of freshly ground white pepper
120 ml good quality unscented oil (rice bran, groundnut etc)
1 small shallot, finely diced
Bring a large pot of water to the boil along with the salt.
Meanwhile break off the stalks from the artichokes by holding the head and twisting off the stalk: it should remove some of the tough fibres with it.
Tie a lemon slice to the base of each artichoke with string - this prevents discolouration and adds flavour.
Cooking the artichokes: Add the artichokes to the boiling water and bring back to a gentle simmer. Place a plate over the artichokes to keep them submerged and cook for 25-30 minutes, depending on their size; the leaves should peel away easily when they are done. Turn off the heat and leave them to cool in their cooking water.
Making the vinaigrette: While the artichokes are cooking , whisk together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small bowl. Taste and correct the seasoning if required.
Serving the artichokes: Serve the barley warm artichokes with the mustard vinaigrette on the side and enjoy every mouthful.