My most recent discovery on the market was the artichoke, since then I just can`t stop eating it. At first it looked quite intimidating, and I thought I’d have to bring in some special skills to prepare. As I love challenges I went for it. After staring at it for a few days I got the courage to start researching what I was actually supposed to do with it. Turns out you don’t need any special tricks or tools, and you only need to add a few simple ingredient to turn it into a really special tasteful appetizer, lunch or even movie snack. The special taste and the ritual of tearing the leaves and dipping them into the sauce beats any crisps for me. During my research I also found out how healthy it is, and that it`s actually not even a vegetable, but a giant flower bud.
The plant is native to the Mediterranean and its reputation for health benefits goes way back. Even the ancient Greek and Romans were using it for medicinal and healing purposes. It is recommended in various different situations like when trying to conceive or the early stages of pregnancy (because of its folic acid content), while studying (supports brain function) but it also supports liver- and brain-function and bone health.
It supports digestion and increases the proportion of probiotics (good bacteria) due to the cynarin and inulin content. Its manganese content helps the metabolism of cholesterol, amino acids and fatty acids and helps utilising the nutrients in the food we eat. It supports the liver and aids digestive issues. The potassium balances the electrolytes that neutralizes the effects of excess sodium. And if all this wasn’t convincing enough, it is also a fact that artichoke heart has higher antioxidant content than blueberries.
We normally eat the fleshy base of the leaves tearing them out from the bud and dipping it into a delicious sauce (yoghurt aioli is my personal favourite). You need to bite on the bottom half of the leaf and by pulling the other half remove the meaty part off with your teeth. Under the leaves you can find a fuzzy part that is called the choke, it needs to be removed as it`s not edible. Underneath the choke lies the tastiest part of the whole thing, the artichoke heart. Even the stalks are edible if you peel the outer layer off and cook it alongside the buds. I hope the preparation below will show you as well how easy it is to cook artichoke and make you more confident next time you spot it on the market.
Ingredients (1 artichoke serves 1-3 people as an appetizer)
For the cooking:
- ½ lemon
- 1 artichoke
For the aioli dip:
- 1 tablespoon yoghurt
- 1 tablespoon mayo
- 1 small garlic clove
- Freshly grated black pepper
First chop off the stem to create a flat basis to the artichoke. You can discard it or remove the leaves and cook it alongside the rest. Cut off the top ¼ of the bud using a sharp knife and then trim the spiky ends of the leaves with a scissor. Slice one slice off from the lemon and set that aside. With the remaining piece rub the cut surfaces of the artichoke to prevent it from browning. Fill a thick bottomed pan 2-3 centimetre high with water and bring it to a simmer. Place the artichoke in the middle, squeeze the remaining juice of the lemon on it and place the lemon slice on the top. Cover it with a lid and keep it simmering on low fire (top the water if too much evaporates) and cook it for about a half an hour up to 50 minutes depending on the ripeness of the artichoke. It is ready when you can easily pull out a leaf. Take it out of the water upside-down to let the water drip out and serve it warm with the aioli or the dipping sauce of your preference.
The aioli tastes the best if it is prepared a few hours or a day ahead, so the garlic can infuse into the sauce. To make the aioli peel and grate garlic, mix it with yoghurt, mayo and season with freshly grated black pepper.