Artichokes have always intimidated me. In the supermarket they look like crude Star Trek props so I avoid buying them but will actively seek them out on a restaurant menu.
Making conversation, I brought this up over a business lunch with my new publisher account manager the other week. Turns out she used to be a chef and looked at me with a mixture of pity and disgust. “You just boil them in salted water for forty minutes.”
That can’t be right! “But what about this trimming and sitting them upside down in a half full saucepan and-”
“No, no, no, no. You just boil them for forty minutes. Then dunk the leaves in a home made vinaigrette. Just don’t eat the outer leaves and when you get to the middle, break out the heart and dunk that in the vinaigrette as well.”
So. There you have it. My recipe for cooked artichoke. Be sure to credit me when you use it.
Now onto something easier but still artichokey… A leek and artichoke gratin.
Phone photography. What did I do before it?
- 350g marinated artichokes (from a jar. Told you it was easier. Don’t be tempted to get the cheaper ones from the can like I did. It turns the whole thing into ass.)
- Trimmed leek
- Bag of bread crumbs. (This is the topping so work out how much you need yourself.)
- 50g butter
- 40g flour
- 450ml o’ milk
- Half a bag of grated mozzarella. (I don’t know what this converts to if you are grating yourself because I never do it.)
- A bag of spinach leaves
- Nutmeg according to the recipe I based this on but I completely forgot to put it in. It probably makes it a whole lot better, to be honest.
- Quarter the artichokes. (They’ll break up a bit but don’t cry about it you little bitch.) Put them in a bowl somewhere within easy reach.
- In another bowl, mix ‘a discretionary amount’ of parmesan through the bread crumbs. Why discretionary? Well, this will be your topping and only you can decide how fat you are/look right now. I used a reasonable amount because otherwise the breadcrumbs will make the whole dish taste “poor”. (I really wish they were called something different because I associate breadcrumbs with old men feeding birds and orphans looking forlornly into a larders.)
- Pour some boiling water over the spinach leaves to wilt them. Drain into a colander. Leave the colander to keep draining in the sink due to laziness and a lack of available kitchen space.
- Trim the leek, cut lengthways and then chop into half moons before realising that you need to colander free to rinse them and then just use your hands to rinse them, anyway. How bad for you can Welsh swamp mud be? Let’s find out.
- Melt the butter in a pan and then fry the leeks gently until they’re soft and you’ve forgotten about where and how they actually grow.
- When soft, stir the flour into the leeks then add the milk. My recipe said to do this slowly but, to be honest, I put it all in at once and just stirred that fucker until it looked like the milky white consistency I presumed it was supposed to look like.
- Simmer for five minutes to cook the flour. Throw in some salt and pepper, sip on wine, do the various other things you do whilst something is simmering.
- Actually you should probably do this so put the wine down: squeeze the rest of the liquid out of the spinach using your hands, shape it into a tight, penisy shape and chop. Stir the chopped spinach into the leek goo.
- Then stir in about 100g of the parmesan and then also the artichokes.
- Pour this into a baking dish then spread the breadcrumb mixture over the top. You can dot the surface with butter if you like. I probably would have but had run out of butter. Besides, I went a bit nuts with the parmesan.
- Into the oven at 220 degrees C for around twenty minutes.
Bam. Another awesome seasonal poverty meal. Also, I can finally say I have something artichokey in my cooking repertoire. Although, I reckon if you put a jar of marinated artichokes (including the oil), a drained can of chickpeas, a squeeze of lemon and some fresh parsley into a food processor you’d have a pretty mean artichoke dip.
The above dip recipe is untried so I can’t vouch for it. Somebody in the Southern Hemisphere who is heading into summer try it for me. I’m thinking maybe Alisa or possibly Cameron?
Now, I have absolutely no memory of where I got the base recipe for this from because I wrote it out on my lunchbreak. So sorry if it’s an actual person that I should have given props to.