Monday, 13 June 2011

Artichoke Hearts (and minds?)

I did promise that my next post after the last one would be about food but, before I get to that, I do just have to say thanks to everyone who has responded to my shameless appeal to ‘Vote Me’.  The response has been overwhelming, and frankly a little embarrassing.  That post had the biggest single day response to any post I’ve uploaded, and is now my third most viewed of all time (not, of course, that I can assume that any of those viewers have actually voted for me, but still.  My most heartfelt thanks, though, go out to those that have).  Which is nice, but slightly disturbing as it’s not actually about food, which was meant to be the point.  Perhaps I should just give up all this food malarkey (which is a lot of faff, it has to be said) and just go in to politics, or go on the X Factor. Oh well, while I’m working out which song to massacre (is it too late to restart the Hallelujah bandwagon?), or where I stand on gay marriage (pro) or quantative easing (huh?), let’s just have some food, shall we?

Remember those artichokes I wrote up the other week?  What I didn’t get round to saying then was that not only did they provide a showstopping starter for a dinner party in their full (globular? global? round?) glory, but they also – directly or indirectly – fed Becca and I for the next two nights as well.

It’s unusual that you serve something for a fancy(ish) dinner, and get left with the best bits (unusual, but not unprecedented – serve roast beef and there are certainly those that would argue that the cold meat you’re left with the day after is even better than freshly roasted warm meat on the night itself), but once you’ve picked all the leaves off the artichokes you are, of course, left with the hearts.  And those would be, I think by common consent, regarded as the best bits.  And Becca and I got to keep them, to make a quick and easy (and very tasty) pasta supper the following evening.

I just sautéed up a couple of shredded rashers of smoked streaky bacon, added a glug of olive oil, some garlic and chilli (a good sized clove and about a thumbnail’s worth, respectively, each finely sliced), then some sliced chestnut mushrooms, and finally the artichoke hearts, sliced lengthwise into sections about a centimetre thick on the outside of the wedge, and a glass of white wine.  This was all done while the linguine (or spaghetti, obviously) was boiling, and when that was cooked nicely al dente it was just tipped into the pan (always add the pasta to the sauce, not the other way round – more convenient washing up wise, and much better at mixing sauce and pasta and combining flavours, so a win-win), along with a ladleful of the cooking water.  A handful of parsley, a generous grind of pepper, maybe salt to taste (the bacon often provides enough), then just stir it all together and serve it up in a bowl.  And for those who aren’t allergic a quick grating of parmesan over the top.

One word of warning.  If you’re using the stalk segment of the artichoke hearts – and why waste them? - make sure you’ve thoroughly peeled away the outer layer (it’ll pull off easily).  It is edible, but very fibrous and liable to leave stringy bits stuck in your teeth.

You will recall (or read here – either for the first time or to be reminded) that the artichokes were cooked in a big pan of water with plenty of aromatics for flavour.  That obviously left us with a big pan of richly flavoured liquor which made a perfect stock for a risotto.  A perfect stock, specifically, for an asparagus risotto.  Click on those links for the method; all I need to say here is that the combination of asparagus and artichoke flavours was as glorious a celebration of spring and the onset of summer expressed through the medium of vegetables as you could possibly wish for.  You might well choose to wash it down with a crisply chilled rose.  I couldn’t possibly say you’d be wrong.

Oh, and if you haven’t voted for me in the 2011 OFM awards, but you think you might want to, you still can (at the time of writing), up until the 24th of June.  Just click here.

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