Spring brings bright fresh flavours to our table and these tips on how to prepare and cook artichokes shows how easy it is to choose fresh over processed shop bought produce.
Tip: Generally, the smaller the artichoke, the more tender it will be. However, plump, round-looking artichokes tend to have a larger heart, which is the sweetest part of the artichoke.
To prepare artichokes:
- Wash artichokes just before cooking to avoid premature spoilage due to moisture.
- Slice off the stem end of each artichoke and discard the end of the stem.
- Peel off the outer set of leaves closest to the stem.
- Remove the majority of the prickly leaf tips for safer eating. To do this, use a sharp, strong knife to cut 2 to 3cm from the pointed top of each artichoke.
- To remove the remaining prickly tips from the outer leaves, use scissors to cut off each leaf tip. Brush all cut edges with lemon juice to prevent browning.
To boil artichokes:
- Fill a large stainless-steel or enameled pot (or other nonreactive pot to prevent discoloration or off flavours) with lightly salted water and bring to boiling.
- Add artichokes and return water to boiling.
- Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 to 30 minutes or until you can easily pull out a leaf from the center of an artichoke. Peel the artichokes when they have cooled.
To steam artichokes:
- Fill a large stainless-steel or enameled pot with 3cm of water.
- Place a steamer basket inside the pot and bring the water to boiling.
- Using tongs, place artichokes, stem side down, in the steamer basket. Reduce heat to simmering, cover the pot, and allow artichokes to steam about 20 to 25 minutes or until you can easily pull out a leaf from the center of artichoke. Peel the artichokes when they have cooled.
To eat a whole cooked artichoke:
- Break off each leaf one at a time and dip the leaf into mayonnaise or another favourite sauce then draw the base of the leaf through your teeth to remove the tender portion.
- After all the leaves have been removed, scrape off the inedible prickly "choke" to expose the inner artichoke heart. The heart is now ready to cut into pieces and enjoy.
To use the cooked artichoke heart in a recipe:
- Peel leaves from the artichoke.
- Scrape off the inedible prickly "choke" to expose the heart. Cut the heart in half or as directed in a recipe.