Who knew that a flower that hasn’t bloomed can be so delicious.
Like most people, we typically consume processed artichokes. Whether they are marinated in a fragrant olive oil, char-grilled to perfection and tossed in a salad- or on top of a pizza, for that matter, we love adding these blooms to our meals.
As a young child, I recall having fresh artichokes, and as a young adult, we even grew them in the garden. Sometimes we forgot to harvest them in time, and they made the most beautiful thistle-like, purple flowers. This is in fact how I first found out that artichokes are flowers that hasn’t bloomed. Massive purple flowers where artichokes used to be…
More recently, we spotted a fresh supply at the local green grocer. It was not the fat green globe artichokes I knew before, but a deep purple leafed bulb, that is longer and narrower in shape- They were delicious every time I made them.
With the first batch, I lovingly presented the artichoke and truffle honey dip to Hans. As any self-preserving husband would do, he picked a leaf and gobbled it up whole (yes, the whole damn chewy leaf), smiled at me awkwardly, and said “hmmmm, delicious” as he chewed on. I think he gathered something was wrong from the mortified expression on my face, as he desperately continued to try and chew through the tough fibrous bits. We burst out laughing as he politely tried to dispose of what he was chewing on. “It’s OK”, he says, “but I imagined it differently”. Too many people suffer the ill-fated artichoke faux pas if they’re used to processed and pre-packaged artichokes. Fear not, we’re here to help!
So, how do you eat a fresh whole artichoke?
- Make sure you pick artichokes that still have tightly closed leaves
- Trim off the tops, remove the small leaves at the base of the bulb and peel the stem. Remove the remaining spiky tips off all the leaves using your kitchen shears.
- Cook as directed.
- Once cooked, the artichoke will be much softer, and less intense in colour.
- Starting at the base, pull away the leaves one by one.
- Dip the soft, white base of the leaf in the dipping sauce, and use your teeth to scrape the soft flesh off the base of the leaf. The easiest way is to flip the leaf over and use your bottom teeth to scrape the soft flesh away from the tougher, outer part of the leaf.
- Discard the harder, chewy, top-part of the leaf.
- As you get closer to the centre of the artichoke the leaves will become softer. I some cases you can eat the entire leaf.
- Once you approach the choke (the hairy bit in the middle) the leaves will become very small and may still have the thorns at the top. At this point you want to take hold of the entire conical shaped top- and gently twist it off the base of the artichoke. Discard the small leaves you just removed.
- The choke (hairy bit) will now be exposed. Using a spoon, gently scoop out the choke, making sure you get rid of all the hairy fibers.
- What is left, is the artichoke heart- what you usually get when you buy processed artichokes. This part- the base of the artichoke- is super soft and delicious. You can either cut it into smaller pieces to make it easier to eat or dip the whole heart and enjoy what you worked so hard to get to!
- The chewy leaves, small leaves covering the choke and the choke itself is discarded.
- Note that when serving artichokes, you want to prepare 1 per person, since there’s not much flesh to consume.
Prep time : 10 Minutes
Cooking time: 30-45 minutes
- 4 Fresh artichokes
- 1 Lemon
- 2-3 Bay leaves
- 4 Garlic cloves
For the dip
- 1 cup plain yogurt of your choice
- 2 tbsp salad cream or mayonnaise (optional)
- ¼ cup truffle oil or truffle flavoured olive oil
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp smoked malden sea salt
- Start by cutting 1/3 of the artichoke off the top. There are spiky bits on the tips of the leaves, so take care not to hurt yourself.
- Using a kitchen shear or kitchen scissors, cut the tops off the remain leaves, making sure to remove al the thorns or spikes.
- Pull off the small leaves at the base of the artichoke, and peel the stem with a vegetable peeler. Cut the stem of the artichoke to about 2-3 cm below the bulb of the artichoke. Tip: soak the artichokes in a bowl with lemon water to prevent discolouration.
- Gently pull the leaves apart and rinse the whole artichoke under running water.
- Place the rushed garlic, half the lemon, sliced, and the bay leaves in the water of your steamer. If using an electrical steamer, place the ingredients on the first rack of the steamer, or around the artichokes.
- Steam the artichokes for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size and variety. After about 25 minutes, you can begin to check on your artichokes by removing a leaf at the base of the stem. When the artichokes are cooked, the leaves should come away from the stem very easily. (remember that they are still very hot, and you might want to use a kitchen tong to remove the leaf when testing if they’re done)
- Once cooked, you can remove the artichokes from the heat and allow them to cool while you prepare the dipping sauce.
- In a bowl, combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, honey, truffle oil and smoked sea salt. Garnish with a drizzle of truffle oil and smoked sea salt before serving.
- Serve the cooled artichokes, with the dipping sauce on the side, and an extra bowl for the discarded leaves.