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In a bit of a departure from baked goods, I wanted to share a family favourite: artichokes, steamed in broth and served with some good quality bread. When I was growing up, we ate these almost as a dessert after dinner - artichoke halves served at the end of the meal in bowls with a helping of broth. It was a hands on and messy experience, ripping off the leaves individually to ensure none of the edible flesh was missed, dipping bread in the broth and then finally being rewarded at the end with the artichoke heart. For a long time, I had no idea there was any other way to eat artichokes. When I did eventually learn that many restaurants served artichoke, and that people would cut all of the leaves off when prepping the raw ingredient, I was shocked and disturbed by wasting so much of what I considered perfectly edible! I still haven't met anyone else outside of my family who prepares artichokes in our way, but I'm always on the look out. I'd love to find out if this is a family method or perhaps a regional style (my grandparents were from the north east of Italy, towards the Austrian and Slovenian borders).
My family's recipe is pretty simple and mainly relies on seasoning to taste, though prepping the artichokes themselves does take some time and practice. You'll note that I don't list measurements in the recipe - too much depends on the number of artichokes you are making, the size of pot you are using and personal preferences for garlic and pepper. I'll suggest the rough measurements I use, but its really up to you!
To prepare your artichokes, you'll want some kitchen scissors and a sharp knife. If you're making more than one or two artichokes (or expect you will take your time in prepping them), you may also want a bowl of ice water. Leaving artichoke halves in the ice water while you continue prepping will help reduce the oxidising and browning of the flesh, but some browning won't impact the flavour or even really the colouring of the finished product, so I often skip this (I also don't normally have ice to hand, so it all depends on what you have available!).
I start by holding the artichoke by the steam and clipping off the sharp ends of the leaves. Once you've done the majority of these around the base and bulk of the artichoke, you can then use a knife to slice off the top (saves you from needing to try cutting these each individually). Next, you'll need to remove the stem by slicing this off at the base of the bulb - try to get as close to the heart as possible - I often end up taking off a couple of the stray leaves at the bottom of the bulb as part of this process. Then slice the artichoke itself in half.
If you've never seen inside an artichoke, you may be surprised by the bristles - this is called the choke. You'll want to remove this by cutting along the top of the flesh at the base (the heart) and pulling out the bristly strands along with some of the inner purple leaves. Once you've cleaned this out, your artichoke half is pretty much ready for cooking. I rinse mine off to remove any bits of choke that might have gotten into the leaves, and then put it upright in a pot. Whatever pot you use, it's important that this be large enough to hold all of your artichoke halves sat upright - ideally it shouldn't be so large that they fall over, but it also shouldn't be tightly packed in. The pot will also need to have a lid.
When you've finished prepping all of the artichokes and placing these in your pot, drizzle olive oil over these and then add several dabs of butter. As a rule of thumb, I add a dab of butter to the inside of each artichoke (in the space cleared by the choke) and also on top of each. Then I add chopped garlic (about a clove per artichoke) and ample salt and pepper. Cover the pot and cook on medium-low for about 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, add your broth - I usually use beef or pork broth, but you could use others if you prefer. You will want to add the broth until it is about halfway up your artichokes. Make sure that they are not burning on the bottom of the pan and then cover and simmer on a low temperature for about an hour. You can check if these are done by pulling out leaves from the artichokes - if these pull away easily, they are done, but if there is still resistance, they probably need a bit more time.
Once ready, dish out the halves into bowls with some broth and serve with bread. During the lockdown, I ended up falling into the trap of making a sourdough starter and so we've been eating a lot of sourdough over the past several months. I can vouch for it working well with artichokes, but a nice Italian loaf or even a crusty baguette would be great. Anything you'd like to use to soak up the juices. To eat the artichokes themselves, take individual leaves and strip these of their meat - its not a glamorous process, best to use your teeth. Don't eat the leaves themselves though! At the end, once all the leaves are cleared away, you'll have the artichoke heart simmered and soaked in the juice to finish on.
- Olive oil
- Beef broth
- Bread (to serve)
- Start by prepping the artichoke - trim the sharp tips from the leaves, cut off the stems from the base, cut the artichokes in half and clean out the bristly ''choke" inside along with some of the purple leaves (using a sharp knife to scoop out above the heart, avoiding cutting away too much of the meat). Rinse in cold water and place sitting up on its base in a pan. (if prepping several, you may want to keep the prepared artichokes in a bath of ice water to prevent too much oxidising and browning while you are finishing the prep for the others).
- Once all of your prepared artichokes are placed in the pan, add a drizzle of olive oil over each and some dabs of butter - a dab on top of each artichoke as well as a bit in the interior cavity of each. Add a few cloves of garlic and season well with salt and pepper.
- Cover and cook of medium heat for about 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, add broth to about halfway up the artichokes, cover and reduce the temperature to low. Simmer for around an hour, until you are easily able to pull a leaf from one of the artichokes and the flesh is tender. You may need to add more broth depending on how long it takes for the artichokes to cook - be careful to check the level of broth and avoid burning the bottoms of the artichokes.
- To serve, dish out artichoke halves and some of the broth. Eat by scraping the flesh off of the leaves and dipping bread into the juices.