I have quite a few artichoke recipes on this site now (see my other posts, Roman Artichokes with Mint-Lemon Pesto and Artichokes Roasted in New Season Olive Oil), but this is how I first experienced this wonderful thistle – steamed and dipped in a fresh, very garlicky mayonnaise. Although I still think the Italians win hands down at making this vegetable taste its best, I was reminded this week that there is still something to be said for the traditional French preparation. Fresh artichokes, steamed until tender, then carefully disassembled and stripped of their soft, savoury flesh. The anti-fast food.
This post is pretty much just an opportunity for me to indulge my love of artichoke porn. Who’d have thought those two words would go together. These glorious flowers were an unbridled delight to photograph, I lost myself for an hour or two in them, entranced by the tones, shapes, patterns and textures.
Interestingly, I recently read an exciting recipe for whole roasted artichokes, eaten in the same leaf-plucking style (check it out here). This is definitely on my to-make list – has anyone tried it?
On a totally different topic, check out my new moose drinking glass! I found a whole set of them in a cupboard of the flat I recently moved into in Stockholm. Each one is etched with a different Swedish wild animal, though I have not been lucky enough to spot any of them yet. I joyously encountered many of these awe-inspiring animals when living in the forests and mountains of British Columbia, Canada and they remind me of those happy, happy times…
But I digress. Back to artichokes. Being a thistle, each of the outside leaves has a tiny spike on it. This is unlikely to damage you in any meaningful way, but as you will be pulling each leaf off with your fingers, trimming the ends of the leaves adds that extra level of protection. This is very much optional. You should also slice off the top 3cm of the flower to allow the steam more of a chance to enter, though I must admit to feeling a twinge of guilt when savaging these gorgeous plants.
Although the inside of the artichoke stem is delicious and should not be thrown away, for the purposes of this recipe, the stem is cut away to allow the flower to sit upright as you steam it. Feel free to utilise the inner stem (the tough outside stripped away) in another recipe, or to steam it along with the flower – it would be a shame to throw it away.
Although I have no doubt that there are infinitely healthier things you could dip your artichoke leaves into (although nothing is immediately springing to mind), a handmade, fresh egg mayonnaise really is a classic choice. And made, as I did, with cold-pressed, new season olive oil it’s hard to really lose a lot of sleep about it.
I recently had the misfortune to encounter some Hellmann’s Lighter than Light Mayonnaise. Don’t worry people, I didn’t have to eat it! With only 3% fat it is difficult to imagine how this can be classified as mayonnaise at all, seeing as true mayonnaise should be pretty much 100% fat. A grim curiosity drew me to the ingredient label – what could actually be in this non-food?
I detail the ingredients for you here so they are seen loud and clear, not tucked away in small print on the back. At the risk of putting you off your artichokes, I want to emphasise just how much better it is when you spend just a few more minutes to make your own mayonnaise. The ingredients are fresh, whole, nutritious, identifiable and minimal. Unlike this: “Water, modified maize starch, spirit vinegar, pasteurised free range egg & egg yolk (3.7%), sugar, salt, vegetable oil, glucose-fructose syrup, citrus fibres, flavourings (contain lactose), stabiliser (xanthan gum), colours (titanium dioxide, beta-carotene), preservative (potassium sorbate), lemon juice concentrate, antioxidant (calcium disodium EDTA).”
This mayonnaise, in contrast, is a flavour sensation. The olive oil, mustard, garlic, lemon and basil working together in a glorious harmony that is much more than the sum of its parts, although all of its parts are scrumptious in their own right.
The longer you leave this mayonnaise, the more time it will have for the flavours to infuse and develop. I tasted this mayonnaise one week after making and it tasted much better than when I first made it. However, it contains raw eggs, and the longer you leave it, the greater the chances are of you coming to some kind of harm. This equation of risk will all depend on how squeamish you are about raw egg. I am not really bothered at all and throw pretty much all caution to the wind. This attitude has served me well so far, but this is something you will have to decide for yourself. There is no right answer.
Whatever you decide, I encourage you to dip with abandon!
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 cloves garlic (or to taste), crushed
- 2 lightly heaped teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 250ml olive oil, cold-pressed if possible
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice or white wine vinegar (or to taste)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- small handful of fresh basil leaves
- 2 globe artichokes
- 1 lemon
- 3 bay leaves
- There are several machines that will greatly assist you in the making of mayonnaise. A food processor with the blade attachment or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk are good options. An immersion blender in a narrow container works extremely well with larger amounts, but is not so great with the quantities listed in this recipe.
- Put the egg yolk, garlic and mustard (the latter helps with the emulsification) in the processor or bowl and start the machine. Add the oil very slowly - just drips - until the mixture starts to thicken and hold its own shape. You can then add the oil faster, in a drizzle.
- When all the oil is incorporated, season with the lemon juice or white wine vinegar, salt and pepper, adding more or less as you taste. You may wish to adjust the garlic at this point as well. If you are using a food processor, you can add the basil and blend it in. If using a stand mixer, you will have to finely chop the basil first.
- Fill a large pan with water and squeeze in half a lemon. Trim the artichokes - slice off the stem, the top 3cm of the thistle and using scissors, clip off the sharp ends of the leaves around the outside - and drop into the acidulated water. The water will prevent the artichokes from browning.
- Put the other half of the lemon (squeeze in the juice and add the remaining fruit) and the bay leaves into the bottom of a steamer or a deep pan. If you are not using a steamer, a metal sieve (not plastic, I've tried that and it melted!) placed over a pan and covered with a lid or tin foil works just as well. Add enough water to come about 5cm up the inside of the pan. Add the trimmed artichokes and cover. Bring the water to the boil and steam the artichokes until tender - a knife inserted into the bottom should not meet resistance and when tugged, the leaves should come out easily. This will take 20-30 minutes. Be careful of hot steam when checking the artichokes!
- Using tongs, transfer the artichokes to plates and serve with individual dipping portions of the mayonnaise. You will also need an empty bowl each for your beautiful, colourful scraps.
- This recipe will most likely make more than you need. It will keep in the fridge for another meal - see the body of the post for details on how long you should store it for.