It is artichoke time of year again! Strictly speaking artichokes actually have two seasons, summer and autumn, the later being when you are more likely to see the baby variety in abundance. I know they can be a little intimidating, after all they are little more than a huge thistle, which is not exactly inviting, but cooking them whole makes them much less fiddly to prepare and with the classic “Artichoke Vinaigrette” most of the work is done by the consumer.
Once you have mastered this basic dismantling of the artichoke you will be ready to move on to some more refined artichoke heart recipes. I love them topped with hollandaise, a match made in heaven but they are also delicious added to salads or pasta dishes. However, as there were some mushrooms in this week’s box, I was inclined to combine the earthy flavours of both, in “Artichoke Heart with Sautéed Mushrooms and Poached Egg” with a drizzle of truffle oil thrown in, just to round the whole dish off. Try it with some good toast for brunch!
Good white truffle oil, and it must be white, is coming increasingly difficult to find. Supermarkets seem content to stock one, cheap imitator, which is a pathetic relation to the real thing. It may seem a bargain but it is not even fit to cook with. Take the time to source a good one. The size of bottle is a good indicator – it should be small and expensive. If it is not, it is not a bargain, it is just not good! It should cost about £10 for 100ml. I know it sound dear but a tiny amount can transform so many recipes and if it is good quality, it will keep for a few months. There is an increasing amount of varieties being produced in England. This is not a problem as long as the white truffles themselves come from Italy, the best in the world coming from Piedmont. I also spotted some rather nice looking Truffle Salt in Marks and Spencer in Wimbledon this week. Delicious sprinkled on your poached egg. Truffle honey is another particular favourite of mine. I like it with a slice or two of good Prosciutto, a chunk of aged Parmesan and a piece of perfectly ripe Cavaillon melon. Yum!
Globe artichoke with Dijon mustard Vinaigrette
1 medium globe artichoke
For the vinaigrette
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 heaped tbsp Dijon mustard
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cut off the stalk of the artichoke, remove any hard outer leaves and cut off the top. Rub with half a lemon. Squeeze the remaining lemon juice into a pan of rapidly boiling, salted water. Plunge the artichoke into the water and boil uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes, until the outer leaves are easily detached. It is important that the artichoke remains submerged so weigh it down. When cooked, turn the artichoke upside down and allow the excess water to drain away. While you are cooking the artichoke, make the vinaigrette. Combine the vinegar and mustard in a small lidded-jar and season to taste. Pour in the olive oil, before screwing on the lid and shaking vigorously to make a thick dressing. Taste, adding more mustard, vinegar and seasoning if necessary. The dressing will keep in the fridge for several days. Serve so everyone can help themselves.
Artichoke Hearts with Poached Egg, Sautéed Mushrooms and White Truffle Oil
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and very finely chopped
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon white truffle oil
Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt
Cook the artichokes as in the recipe above but leaving the stems intact. When cool enough to handle, peel off all the outer leaves. With a pinch, remove the remaining leaves on top of the choke. With a teaspoon scoop out the thistle like choke until you are left with the heart. Trim off any stringy outside layers on the stem and remove what remains so that the artichoke can sit upright. Slice the remaining stalk and put to one side.
Thinly slice the mushrooms. Heat a good glug of olive oil in a large heavy bottomed frying pan. Add the mushrooms and fry until golden brown. Add the garlic and any artichoke slices and fry for a minute more. Remove from the heat and drizzle with the truffle oil.
Poach eggs – butter the bottom of a heavy saucepan and add a couple of inches of water. Add vinegar and bring to a simmer. Break 1 egg into a cup and slide into water. Repeat with the other, spacing them apart, and poach at a bare simmer until the whites are firm but yolks are still runny, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer eggs as cooked with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain and season with salt and pepper. Pile the mushrooms onto the plate and add the artichoke hearts. Top them with the poached eggs and eat straight away.