I have quite a few artichoke recipes on this site now (see my other posts, Roman Artichokes with Mint-Lemon Pesto and Artichokes Roasted in New Season Olive Oil), but this is how I first experienced this wonderful thistle – steamed and dipped in a fresh, very garlicky mayonnaise. Although I still think the Italians win hands down at making this vegetable taste its best, I was reminded this week that there is still something to be said for the traditional French preparation. Fresh artichokes, steamed until tender, then carefully disassembled and stripped of their soft, savoury flesh. The anti-fast food.
Of course, the judicious application of some kind of luscious, creamy sauce or of melted butter, greatly assists this process.
These stunning vegetables are still in season in Europe and I buy them whenever I find them fresh and firm.
This post is pretty much just an opportunity for me to indulge my love of artichoke porn. Who’d have thought those two words would go together. These glorious flowers were an unbridled delight to photograph, I lost myself for an hour or two in them, entranced by the tones, shapes, patterns and textures.
And the colours go so beautifully with my blog design!
I have tried artichokes for this dish both boiled and steamed. I prefer steaming as the leaves are less likely to become soggy and waterlogged.
Interestingly, I recently read an exciting recipe for whole roasted artichokes, eaten in the same leaf-plucking style (check it out here). This is definitely on my to-make list – has anyone tried it?
On a totally different topic, check out my new moose drinking glass! I found a whole set of them in a cupboard of the flat I recently moved into in Stockholm. Each one is etched with a different Swedish wild animal, though I have not been lucky enough to spot any of them yet. I joyously encountered many of these awe-inspiring animals when living in the forests and mountains of British Columbia, Canada and they remind me of those happy, happy times…
But I digress. Back to artichokes. Being a thistle, each of the outside leaves has a tiny spike on it. This is unlikely to damage you in any meaningful way, but as you will be pulling each leaf off with your fingers, trimming the ends of the leaves adds that extra level of protection. This is very much optional. You should also slice off the top 3cm of the flower to allow the steam more of a chance to enter, though I must admit to feeling a twinge of guilt when savaging these gorgeous plants.
Although the inside of the artichoke stem is delicious and should not be thrown away, for the purposes of this recipe, the stem is cut away to allow the flower to sit upright as you steam it. Feel free to utilise the inner stem (the tough outside stripped away) in another recipe, or to steam it along with the flower – it would be a shame to throw it away.
Even after steaming, these artichokes retained stunning colours inside. So beautiful that I was forced to interrupt my dinner to photograph them!
Remember that when eating this size and preparation of artichoke, the hairy choke must definitely be scooped out before you devour the tender heart.
Although I have no doubt that there are infinitely healthier things you could dip your artichoke leaves into (although nothing is immediately springing to mind), a handmade, fresh egg mayonnaise really is a classic choice. And made, as I did, with cold-pressed, new season olive oil it’s hard to really lose a lot of sleep about it.
I recently had the misfortune to encounter some Hellmann’s Lighter than Light Mayonnaise. Don’t worry people, I didn’t have to eat it! With only 3% fat it is difficult to imagine how this can be classified as mayonnaise at all, seeing as true mayonnaise should be pretty much 100% fat. A grim curiosity drew me to the ingredient label – what could actually be in this non-food?
I detail the ingredients for you here so they are seen loud and clear, not tucked away in small print on the back. At the risk of putting you off your artichokes, I want to emphasise just how much better it is when you spend just a few more minutes to make your own mayonnaise. The ingredients are fresh, whole, nutritious, identifiable and minimal. Unlike this: “Water, modified maize starch, spirit vinegar, pasteurised free range egg & egg yolk (3.7%), sugar, salt, vegetable oil, glucose-fructose syrup, citrus fibres, flavourings (contain lactose), stabiliser (xanthan gum), colours (titanium dioxide, beta-carotene), preservative (potassium sorbate), lemon juice concentrate, antioxidant (calcium disodium EDTA).”
This mayonnaise, in contrast, is a flavour sensation. The olive oil, mustard, garlic, lemon and basil working together is a glorious harmony that is much more than the sum of its parts, although all of its parts are scrumptious in their own right.
The longer you leave this mayonnaise, the more time it will have for the flavours to infuse and develop. I tasted this mayonnaise one week after making and it tasted much better than when I first made it. However, it contains raw eggs, and the longer you leave it, the greater the chances are of you coming to some kind of harm. This equation of risk will all depend on how squeamish you are about raw egg. I am not really bothered at all and throw pretty much all caution to the wind. This attitude has served me well so far, but this is something you will have to decide for yourself. There is no right answer.
Whatever you decide, I encourage you to dip with abandon!
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