Have you ever cooked artichokes from scratch? I had never before yesterday, always opting for preserved hearts in jars of oil or tins of water. I’ve always enjoyed them, but never really though to cook them myself – I was put off by stories of how much of a faff it is. Oh, how I wish I was here to say it was easy, straightforward and speedy. But it wasn’t. I understand now why they charge so much for those bloody anitpasti artichokes in jars!
I came across some small-ish artichokes in my local Turkish market and decided to give them a go, armed with Jamie Oliver’s step-by-step guide on how to prepare the buggers from his book The Naked Chef. NOT as easy as he made out. Also, my artichokes seemed to have a whole lot of choke and not so much leaf. They made SO much mess!!
Hmmm. I kind of gave up on the leaves in the end, and trimmed them right back to the hearts. I was starting to lose…ahem… heart… at this point, bunging them in the oven with not much hope. But! I kind of understand why people bother going to the extra effort when I tasted them. How delicious those little hearts were, and completely unlike any other prepared artichoke I’ve ever had. Tender, with a little bite, rather than sloppily soft and so flavoursome.
So if I haven’t completely put you off altogether, here’s a recipe suggestion for your artichoke hearts… tossed into the centre of a ring of a fresh fregola salad, that’s sort of inspired by tabbouleh. And it was completely delicious so give it a go! (Even if you use the prepared kind!)
You will need:
4 fresh artichokes, peeled and prepared so that you’re left with the hearts
2 white onions, peeled and cut into segments
3 bruised garlic cloves, left whole in their skins
250g fregola (or orzo or giant couscous etc)
Large handful of parsley
2 tbspns pine nuts, toasted
The seed of 1/2 a pomegranate
1 tbspn pomegranate molasses
1 – Start by preheating your oven to 180 degrees
2 – Get on with preparing your artichokes – snap off the coarse leaves on the outside and use a knife to scrape off the tough beyond this until your left with the softer flesh of the hearts; scrape out the choke with a spoons and chop the hearts into quarters
3 – Place your artichokes in a bowl with the juice of half your lemon to prevent browning an to wash any remnants of the choke
4 – Once prepared, rinse the chokes and drain; tip them into a roasting tin with the onion, garlic and some seasoning, drizzle with oil and roast for 40 minutes until the hearts are tender
5 – Meanwhile get on with your fregola; cook in salted boiling water for around 10 minutes until al dente; drain and rinse well with cold water to wash off the starch and prevent overcooking
6 – Toss the cool fregola with the parsley, toasted pine nuts, pomegranate seeds and the zest of your lemon
7 – Make the dressing by combining the pomegranate molasses with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a little seasoning; mix half of this into your fregola
8 – When the artichokes are ready, cool slightly before placing amid or on top of your fregola, drizzled with the remaining lemon juice and molasses dressing, plus extra parsley and pomegranate seeds