Artichokes à la barigoule
The window in which to pick artichokes is very short. They go from being young, tender and a joy to prepare to a stringy and tough time-waster, which makes absolute sense considering they are a thistle. This, combined with their short shelf life, means most people buy them ready prepared or pickled.
I have always loved the Italian way of eating artichokes at their peak: simply the whole flower with good-quality olive oil and salt in which to dip each petal. You then use your teeth to strip the yellow part from each leaf, which is extremely tender and delicious. As much as I would love to serve them like this in restaurants, there is a basic level of preparation required to ensure artichokes go from being infuriating to interactive and charming.
This recipe is based on a French preparation – à la Barigoule – which is essentially a preserve cooked in wine, vinegar and oil with the addition of bacon or mushrooms. It’s a very subtle preserve – not quite a pickle – and it can be served as almost a dish on its own. I think of it as a dressed salad in a jar, although that patent is still pending. I also like to chop it and roll it through pasta with butter and herbs. After this shoot, my partner used the leftover artichokes on the stinging nettle rice from an earlier recipe and it was really great. I do claim most of the triumph myself, though.
To clean artichokes, first strip back the outer leaves until the tender yellow part extends up to two thirds of the body, then cut the top third off. Cut the base of the stem off to about 10 centimetres and peel with a vegetable peeler, then cut the head in half lengthwise. Use a sharp spoon or rounded-edge knife to remove the “choke” or the furry part at the centre of the head.
Artichokes à la barigoule
– 300ml olive oil
– 4 shallots, peeled
– 1 garlic head, crushed
– 1 tsp coriander seeds
– 1 tsp white pepper
– 1 bunch Dutch carrots, scrubbed
– 200g mushrooms, preferably wild pine mushrooms
– 12 heads artichoke, cleaned
– 10 bay leaves
– 6 sprigs thyme
– 500ml white wine
– 80ml sherry vinegar
– 200ml water
– 15g salt
Place the oil, shallots, garlic, coriander seeds and white pepper into a large heavy-based steel pot over a low heat. Cook until the shallots begin to go transparent – or about five minutes – before adding the carrots and mushrooms, then cook for a further five minutes.
Add the rest of the ingredients, including the artichokes. Bring to a gentle boil before reducing the heat midway and cooking for about 20 minutes.
Test the artichoke hearts with a skewer – they should fall off a skewer with some resistance – and let cool in the liquid before storing in a refrigerator.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 18, 2018 as "Chokes on you". Subscribe here.