The first time I tried artichoke was in the form of loose leaf Artichoke Tea from the hill town of Dalat in Vietnam. A strange way to start a new tasting experience, perhaps, but it was enough to get me hooked.
Thinking about it, however, this could be put down to the following:
Preparation – artichokes are tricky to prepare compared to other vegetables – as you may have worked out from the gnarled, prickly image above – requiring some assertive trimming work with a kitchen knife.
Economies of scale – they are not very economical: once scrubbed and peeled half of the vegetable ends up on the compost heap. They’re obviously not going to be on any best-selling ‘15-minute meals’ Christmas cookbook then.
As an ingredient they have an earthy, nutty and robust flavour and are especially flavoursome if you buy them marinated in olive oil (and char-grilled – yum). They also go well with tomatoes, green beans, chicken (see recipe below), spinach or baked with goats cheese. Artichokes are also extremely well-suited to seafood as Nigel Slater shows to great effect in his recipe. For a great pasta recipe, Rick Stein goes all-out in his recipe for Italian artichoke pasta with fresh herbs and garlic.
The nutrition levels in artichokes are substantial; containing a high amount of vitamin C, folic acid, potassium and soluble fibre.
Types of artichoke:
Globe artichoke: Part of the thistle family and related to the burdock leaf and salsify.
Jerusalem artichoke: They may be artichokes by name but there’s an elephant in the room (two in fact) – Firstly, they are not real artichokes. Their more commonly known name is the ‘Sunchoke’. It is the underground tuber or root of the plant and part of the sunflower family. They resemble ginger root more than anything else.
Secondly, they have nothing whatsoever to do with the Holy Land.
Chinese artichoke: Part of the mint family and used extensively in Oriental cooking. You can usually buy them fresh or tinned in most Asian supermarkets in the UK.
Chicken salad with marinated artichokes and mushrooms
This colourful and filling salad is a great way to use marinated artichoke; providing a very tasty meal without much preparation.
Serves 1 -2
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cooked chicken breast, sliced
- 150g char grilled artichoke halves, marinated in oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 100g mixed mushrooms (oyster, shiitake, button), washed and sliced
- 1 baby gem lettuce, shredded
- A handful of lambs lettuce
- 6 – 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 tsp chilli flakes
- 1 spring onion, sliced diagonally into 2 cm lengths
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Salt and pepper
- Heat the oil in a small pan over a medium heat and cook the mushrooms with the garlic for about 4-5 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Set aside and leave to cool.
- Combine the rest of the ingredients in a salad bowl and toss together.
- Season with salt and pepper, add the mushrooms to the bowl and serve.