Stuffed with meat & herbs, fried & braised in tomato sauce
Prepping artichokes is a wonderfully brilliant, thoughtful ritual to partake in and, I find, a very calming process. The instructions below will help you prepare Italian violet artichokes, which I use throughout this book. Also, if you have a plot of land, growing artichokes is beyond easy, they look extraordinary and their yield is pretty high. Bearing in mind they can be expensive to buy, growing your own could be win–win. Try and give your artichokes a little squeeze before you buy them to check they’re nice and firm and at their best.
Squeeze the juice from a few lemons into a big bowl of cold water, dropping the squeezed lemon halves into the bowl as you go, but keeping 1 halved lemon out so you can use it to rub the artichokes as you prep them. Artichokes oxidize and discolour super-quickly once exposed to air, so it’s important to rub them with acid as you go, keeping them submerged in lemon water thereafter.
One artichoke at a time, click off the outer leaves – about half in total – until you get to the paler, yellowy- white, more tender ones. With a sharp knife, trim 5cm below and above the base of the choke, rubbing the exposed cuts with lemon as you go. Use a small sharp knife or speed-peeler to peel the base and stalk, revealing the soft flesh underneath. Rub it all over with one of your lemon halves.
Get a teaspoon, insert it into the middle of the leaves, then turn and scrape it to remove the inner, fluffy choke – look inside to check you’ve done an accurate job. Once done, simply squeeze in some lemon juice.
At this point you can use them whole, halve or quarter them as your recipe calls for, or, of course, slice, dice or do whatever you want with them! The possibilities are endless.