Thursday, 8 July 2010

Artichokes and Aioli

Although the heart of the artichoke is the most flavoursome and tender part, it's such a shame to waste the delicious, flesh in the leafy petals. To eat, simply pull off each leaf, dunk in the aioli and suck the pulp out by scraping each petal between your teeth, discarding the rest. Once you've got to the choke (the hairy centre), spoon it out and discard. You are then left with the artichoke heart which you can slice up and dip in the remaining sauce. The leaves are equally delicious dipped in melted butter or flavoured oil.


How to prepare your artichokes.

Get a big bowl of water with a squeaze of lemon juice in it ready. Trim off the artichoke stalks and the rough, coarse base leaves. I like to rub over the cut parts with half a lemon, so I don't have to panic about them going brown if I'm being a bit laidback and slow in my prep work. With a pair of scissors, trim off the tops of each leaf and pop it into the bowl of acidulated water, while you prepare the rest of your artichokes.

Place a few whole garlic cloves, the juice of one lemon, a glass of white wine and a couple of bay leaves in a large saucepan and top up with water and bring up to a simmer. Pop your prepared artichokes on to a steamer and place it in the saucepan and pop the lid on. Leave to simmer for 40 minutes to 1 hour, depending on size. Alternatively, place the artichokes directly in the saucepan and boil. If they start to bob up, tuck a piece of baking parchment around the top before placing the lid on. You know they're done, when you can easily pull out an artichoke leaf.

Once the artichokes are ready, remove them from the saucepan and place them upside down in a collander to drain.

While the artichokes are cooking, you can make the aioli.


2 large egg yolks
1 tsp of dijon mustard
2-3 cloves of garlic, pounded to a smooth paste with some sea salt in a pestle and mortar
1/2 (285 ml) pint of peppery olive oil
1/2 (285 ml) pint of mild olive oil or vegetable/sunflower oil for a mellower flavour
Lemon juice to taste
Salt and pepper

Mix the two oils together in a jug. Whisk together the egg yolk and mustard and gradually add the oil, whisking all the time. Start off with small drops, and build up to a continuous drizzle. Once you've added about half the oil, you can start to add the rest a bit faster. Once all the oil has been whisked in, add the garlic and lemon juice. Season well and give each guest their own individual bowl of aioli to dip their artichoke leaves in.

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