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Artichoke

Artichokes look a bit daunting at first, but if you don't want to cook them, you can always buy artichoke hearts in the Italian deli or in a jar, ready to use.

Many people run away from globe artichokes because they don't know how to prepare them. They are a bit fiddly but really easy to manage when you know how.

How to prepare a globe artichoke

Bend the dark outer leaves down and snap them off, stopping when you come to the lighter fresher green leaves. Slice off the top of the artichoke (where it forms a cone). Snip the tips off the sharp leaves so that they are level with the heart of the artichoke. You should now have a bulb with a flat top. To remove the hard choke inside of the artichoke, tap the bulb on a flat surface so that it opens, then prise the choke out from the middle with your fingers and remove any rough material around it. If you just want the heart, remove all the outer leaves, remove the stem and halve or quarter or slice thinly for salads.

To cook globe artichokes 

Steam them until tey are the tender about 35 minutes for smaller ones, and up to an hour for large artichokes.

Rub them with olive oil and add flavouring (a tiny pinch of dried oregano or a hint of dried chilli) and bake them in a dish, covered with tin foil in a medium oven for between half an hour to an hour depending on size.

Eat them raw, sliced thinly as you would with fennel and toss them in an oil and viengar dressing or just serve them simply with salt and black pepper. Serve them with a salty cheese such as pecorino.

However, if you don't want to tackle a fresh one, you can get artichoke hearts in tins or by the tub in specialist delis and Italian shops and this is the probably the most convenient way to buy them.

A healthy artichoke

Each globe artichoke contains about 50 calories and contains iron, potassium, calcium and niacin so they are a good buy if you want something nutritious and tasty with good texture to fill out a diet salad.

Artichokes are purported to be good for the liver because they contain a substance called cynarin which helps the liver to excrete bile. This is apparently why they are often served as a starter, because they help you to digest the fat that comes in the next courses. They are also supposed to be good for gout, rheumatism and to help lower cholesterol but as with most of these claims, they are not absolutely proven and you may need to eat a lot of them to feel benefit.

Jerusalem Artichokes or Sunchokes

You can also buy Jerusalem artichokes, also called Sunchokes which carry the same name as the Globe Artichoke, but come from a different plant altogether (Helianthus Tuberosus). They are cheaper and make a delicous soup - add some roasted aubergine or dried ceps to add extra flavour. However, they are difficult to peel, which is probably why they don't cost too much. The work is well worth it however, and you will often find that the more expensive restaurants serve them because they are delicious, high in margin and they have the staff to do the prepping! They can cause flatulence however, but don't let that stop you trying them – they hae been found to reduce blood cholesterol and are said to offer another significant health benefit, that is 'a decreased incidence of colon cancer' (Source: J Kays, Horticultural Scientist at the University of Georgia, Athens).

 

How to prepare Jerusalem Artichokes or Sunchokes

Jerusalem artichokes can be cooked in salted water with their peel on, then you can use a spoon or sharp knife to remove the skin more easily.

If the peel is thin and not too mottled, scrub them instead of peeling them.

When you peel them before cooking, drop them into a bowl of lemon and water so they don't discolour (you only need a squeeze of lemon).  If you are cooking them, there is no need to do this.

How to cook Jerusalem Artichokes or Sunchokes

Did you know that you can roast them and you get a nutty, delicous textured roast vegetable that is a replacement for potatoes? Scrub or peel them if the skins are too mottled and roast as for roast potatoes. Pour oil into a baking dish, heat it in a medium to hot oven, then roll the sunchokes/Jerusulem in the hot oil carefully, and roast until they are soft but not collapsed. Keep an eye on them as they are easy to overcook.

Cook the artichokes with potatoes (Maris Pipers are good) until soft in boiling water, then mash together with lots of butter and season with salt and pepper. If you wish, add a grating of nutmeg or some finely chopped fresh herbs and add double cream to make them absolutely rich and yummy.

Fry finely sliced Jerusalem artichokes/sunchokes in oil until cooked but still firm, then add a little lemon juice and honey and toss. Serve with roast duck.

Finely slice the artichokes into the thinnest slices, then immediately toss with a French dressing made with olive oil, vinegar, finely chopped shallots, Dijon mustard and salt and pepper

Globe artichokes (see picture) came originally from Sicily in Italy. Many people run away from them because they don't know how to prepare them. They are a bit fiddly and hard work to get so little in return! You can get artichoke hearts in tins or by the tub in specialist delis and Italian shops and this is the probably the most convenient way to buy them.

Each globe artichoke contains about 50 calories and contains iron, potassium, calcium and niacin.

Artichokes are purported to be good for the liver because they contain a substance called cynarin which helps the liver to excrete bile. This is why they are often served as a starter, because they help you to digest the fat that comes in the next courses. They are also supposed to be good for gout, rheumatism and to help lower cholesterol.

You can also buy Jerusalem artichokes which carry the same name, but come from a different plant altogether. They are cheaper and make a delicous soup - add some roasted aubergine or dried ceps to add extra body. However, they are a bugger to peel, which is probably why they don't cost too much. The work is well worth it however, and you will often find that the more expensive restaurants serve them because they are delicious, high in margin and they have the staff to do the prepping! They can cause flatulence however, but don't let that stop you trying them.


RELATED LINKS
Jerusalem artichoke
How to cook Artichokes





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