How To Actually Prep and Cook An Artichoke Like Nobody's Business

·3-min read
Photo credit: Daniel Grizelj - Getty Images
Photo credit: Daniel Grizelj - Getty Images

Did you know artichokes aren’t vegetables? They’re actually the buds of a variety of thistle, which eventually flower into a purplish, spiky spray in summer. Harvesting them before they bloom means we can enjoy their deliciously creamy hearts in salads, dips, pastas, gratins and soups.

What are the different parts of an artichoke called?

The outer part of an artichoke is formed of prickly leaves, knows as bracts. Each leaf has a velvety, fleshy bit at the base that you can eat once cooked (hold the tip and pull it through your teeth so you can eat the pulpy bit at the bottom and discard the rest).

Under all the leaves is a hairy bit called the choke that’s too fibrous to eat (simply scoop it out with a spoon and discard). Beneath the choke is the heart and the stem (eat them as they are, marinate them for later or use in a variety of artichoke heart recipes, like this artichoke tortellini or artichoke soup.)

Tender baby artichokes aren’t developed enough to have chokes so they’re far easier to prep, especially for raw dishes like salads (remove the outer leaves, thinly slice and add to your salad bowl with lemon and olive oil for a delicious crunch).

How to prepare and cook a whole artichoke

Wash your artichoke under cold running water before snapping off some of the harder outer leaves. Then cut about 2-3cm off the top and the stem with a sharp knife. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the tough exterior of the remaining stem and snip off any pointy tips on the leaves with kitchen scissors. Finally, rub lemon juice over the stalk and any other cut areas or place them in a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent them browning.

To steam your artichoke: place it in a steamer or on steamer plate inserted in a large pan with plenty of water. After about 40 minutes (perhaps longer if you’re artichoke is particularly large), pull off one of the leaves at the base to check it’s done – it should pull away easily with zero resistance.

To boil your artichoke: put it in a pan of salted water and cook for about 40 minutes before pulling out a leaf to check for tenderness. Then enjoy swirling each petal into your favourite dip – anything from melted butter and vinaigrette to mayonnaise, Hollandaise and aioli works – and eating the flesh at the base. Remove the choke once you get into the middle and feast on the artichoke heart beneath.

Photo credit: Photographer, Basak Gurbuz Derman - Getty Images
Photo credit: Photographer, Basak Gurbuz Derman - Getty Images

Can I oven bake artichokes?

Sure! Prepare your artichoke in the same way outlined above but trim off more of the stem so it sits flush against the countertop. Gently open out each of the petals without pulling them off to create little gaps between the layers. Smear anything from minced garlic and parmesan to herbs and flavoured oils into the gaps before wrapping the whole thing up in foil and baking for about an hour in a moderate oven.

How to pan fry artichokes

Cut the artichokes in quarters or halves and remove the choke. Then pan fry them cut side down with a little olive oil. Once cooked, pour over a garlicky dressing, toss into your favourite hot salad or serve as a veggie side. You can also braise artichokes by adding a cooking liquid, like wine or stock, into the pan along with herbs and seasonings. They’ll happily absorb the liquid while they simmer away and become chubbily swollen with flavour.

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