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A-Z of Vegetables: Artichokes

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Artichokes are weird. Don’t get me wrong, I like artichokes. But blimey, are they weird. Can you imagine how they were discovered? I can imagine a hungry Italian looking at this enormous vegetable with sharp-edged leaves, like rocket on steroids, and a viciously spiky ball with a violently purple fringe on top of a sturdy, straight stem thinking to themselves: ‘I reckon I can eat that. Not the big scary leaves or the big scary stalk or the big scary ball on top. But just the middle bit. That bit. I reckon I could eat that.’ What makes this story even more mental is that the Italian was right. If you’re feeling brave, you can fight through this plant which looks like a cross between Day of the Triffids, Audrey II and Timothée Chalamet in a tutu, and cut off its head, then take it back to your kitchen where you keep all the plasters you’ll need for your hands.

Now you have claimed your artichoke, you must put it on your chopping board and wonder how on earth you’re going to get into it. You can’t eat the outside bit, remember – the hungry Italian told you not to. But it’s like a flower, you need to remove the blade-like petals one by one saying, ‘He loves me not, he loves me less than the bastard artichoke’ in order to get to the centre which you are allowed to eat. Congratulations, you now look like you ran hands-first through a threshing machine, but you have now uncovered the very romantic-sounding 'artichoke heart'! It’s so beautiful you could kiss it. It smells like petrol and you want to eat it. (Don’t eat petrol, folks. Only vegetables which smell like petrol.) But wait! First, you must choke it.

Don’t worry, it is dead. In the very centre of the artichoke heart is a toxic choke, a growling hairy section which you must remove lest you eat it by accident. Baby artichokes will be too innocent to have developed such grains of evil in their hearts but if the artichoke in question was mature, you must defeat it once and for all. Oh, and by the way, if you don’t do it quick enough the artichoke will oxidise and go brown.

Your partner comes home and discovers you consuming gin via intravenous drip as the artichokes simmer in water with lemon slices in it lest it oxidise. They pat your shoulder and dry your tears and then give you what they picked up from the supermarket: a jar of artichokes in olive oil, ready to eat and perfumed with parsley. You want to cry when you realise that the brand of jarred artichokes is owned by the hungry Italian that discovered how to dissect them in the first place.

Bolshy potato salad, to serve approximately 4 

  1. Before you begin assembly, wash 300g baby potatoes, such as Vivaldi, Charlotte or Season’s Gold, then boil them in lightly salted water for 15-20 minutes until the consistency of firm butter. Poke them with a knife to make sure. Then tumble them into a big dish and wander off to do something else as they cool down.
  2. When you’re ready to start, drain the oil from a 280g jar of artichokes in oil (or the tinned equivalent) into a jug. Put the oil in the fridge and use for frying, dressing and roasting other things later in the week.
  3. Chop the potatoes into quarters (or bite-sized pieces, depending) and add the artichokes, along with 1/2 diced red onion or banana shallot, 1-2 tbsp sultanas and 1/2 teaspoon toasted caraway seeds (optional but blimey do I love them).
  4. Blob on top of this 4 generous tbsp vegan mayonnaise or yoghurt, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1 generous tsp wholegrain mustard (optional), 2 minced garlic cloves and some lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, then stir together until well-amalgamated. Taste for seasoning, then chop a green herb of your choice to sprinkle on top and serve as is. (Unless the company you keep is too precious to eat out of a mixing bowl.)

Notes: What to do with the remaining half onion? Easy. Whack the onion in the fridge to be cooked within 24 hours.

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Daniela Miller

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I love your blog ❤️

Your writing is entertaining and the recipes look tasty 👍 And I can totally relate to this artichoke post. We live in Spain and they grow on our doorstep but boy are they a bastard to prepare and cook! I will try this recipe with the ones that come out of a jar 😂

I can’t figure out how to follow it so I can find it again and get updates about new posts. Does anyone know how to do this?


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Thank you for your comments Daniela, they're very much appreciated 🙌

I'm sorry to say I'm not sure how to follow blogs in this blogosphere, because I'm quite new to this! But I'm going to aim to post the next vegetable (weird sentence) every Friday from now on. I hope you read again! 💓