Produce report: November 14
They are unlikely to be on too many midweek menus unless you have a sizeable vegetable plot but the arrival of the first globe artichokes and fresh peas takes us one step closer to summer (and to end-of-year entertaining). Both are always in fairly short supply and both are real treats.
Globe artichokes, in season from October until January, have always been a luxury crop and while there are steps that need to be followed in their preparation, they are not tricky when you know what you are doing (isn’t it always that way). Fear not, we’ve got it all covered on bite.co.nz with Ray’s how-to trim and steam video, his know-your-artichokes feature and our artichoke recipe collection.
It is the immature flower bud of the artichoke that is eaten. The furry choke (unless the artichokes are very young) and the tough outer leaves are discarded. However, the trimmed inner leaves, drizzled with vinaigrette, hollandaise or lemony melted butter, can be scrapped between the teeth so that the soft fleshy base can also be enjoyed. The rest of the leaf is then discarded.
Any visitor to the Jewish ghetto in Rome will have seen box after box of artichokes announcing their presence outside restaurants and here you will find them on practically every menu, served deep fried; stewed with mint, parsley, garlic and plenty of olive oil until meltingly tender; or in a spring stew with fresh peas and broad beans.
When buying, look for heavy, solid artichokes with bright and tightly closed leaves. Best eaten within a couple of days, they should be stored in the vegetable crisper or refrigerated in a vented plastic bag.
Artichokes contain an organic acid called cynarin which makes wine taste sweeter, something to consider when you plan a wine match. As they are usually served as a starter in New Zealand perhaps the answer is to eat up quickly and then pour the wine! Or choose a nice dry style.
Fresh peas will be on the Christmas dinner table for many of us. They are available from November until February and should be stored in the fridge.
To celebrate the lowering price of strawberries why not make Viva’s strawberry custard tarts, below. The pastry cases can be made ahead and the custard cooked and refrigerated so that only a quick assembly job is needed at the last minute. Make one big tart instead of individual ones if you’d rather.
Strawberry custard tarts (makes 6)