As vegetables go, the artichoke is one of the most intriguing out there. With its beautiful armour-like exterior and delicious savoury-sweet heart, this vegetable is technically not a vegetable at all but the bud of a flowering plant from the thistle family.
I can imagine if you were encountering them for the first time they might look a bit intimidating, but once you get a taste for artichokes there’s no looking back. Whether steamed, grilled, roasted, or sautéed, artichokes are one of spring’s most delectable treats.
Let’s get right down to how to prepare these beauties, which first means understanding their anatomy. As with all flowers, an artichoke has petals; the thick green ones are the outer petals and the thin pale yellow ones are the inner (edible) petals. At the centre of the artichoke is the choke, a fuzzy mass of fine hair-like material. Underneath the choke is the heart and from the heart is the stem. The heart and stem are where all of that delicious and sumptuous flavour is hiding.
Preparing & cooking artichoke
There are two ways artichokes are prepared for cooking: whole and just the heart.
To prepare a whole artichoke, give it a rinse, slice off the top quarter and stem with a knife, and snip the ends of the petals off with scissors to remove the thorns. Prepping a whole artichoke this way is perfect for grilling, baking, and the most common method, steaming.
To steam a whole artichoke, place a steaming basket in a large pot filled with water until it reaches the basket. Place the prepared artichokes in the basket and cover. Bring to a boil and steam until the artichoke petals can be removed by gently pulling – this should take about 30 minutes. To eat, pull off one of the outermost petals – these aren’t edible but the base of the petal holds a scrumptious piece of artichoke “meat.”
Dip the base of the petal in your favourite sauce, like Jamie’s garlicky aioli, then pull the base of the petal through slightly clenched teeth to remove the tasty “meat” and eat. Once you’ve done this with all of the petals and have reached the heart, remove the fuzzy choke with a spoon. What remains is the glorious artichoke heart to devour.
To get right to the heart of the matter, so to speak, and prepare only the artichoke heart for cooking, remove all of the petals, scoop out the choke with a spoon, peel the stem with a vegetable peeler until light green, and rub with a little lemon juice to prevent discolouration. What you’re left with is the best part of the artichoke, which you can eat whole. Roast, fry, dice and sauté, or shave and use in dishes like this glorious artichoke risotto.
Of course, we can’t leave out baby artichokes, the smaller versions of their adult counterparts. Their petite size makes them perfect and tender enough for eating whole. To prepare, snap off the outer layers of petals until you reach the pale, yellow inner petals, trim off the tip of the petals and the stem, slice in half lengthways and remove the small choke with a spoon, if needed. Use baby artichokes in this one-pan meal, Roasted chicken with baby artichokes and olives, or Jamie’s Baby artichoke bruschetta, for a truly uniquely flavoursome meal.
With so many delicious options, there’s no reason to ignore this spring delicacy any longer – with just a few steps of prep, these delicious and fun vegetables are minutes away from your plate!