Parmesan stuffed artichokes
( SERVES 4 )
Is the globe artichoke a flower or a vegetable? It can be both.
The immature bud of this relative of the thistle is considered a sensuous vegetable. To enjoy, simmer the trimmed bud in boiling water to which a little lemon juice has been added to prevent discolouration. Once cooked, the flesh at the base of the leaves can be dipped in melted garlic butter and sucked off or scraped off with your teeth. The fine hair-like choke inside the bud should be discarded to allow the tender part - the heart - to be enjoyed "as is" or in salads, pasta sauces or antipasto platters. Stuffed with parmesan here, they make a lovely starter.
Globe artichokes appear in late spring and should be devoured as soon after picking as possible. However, if left to grow, the artichoke can develop into a large, stunning purple-blue flower.
- Remove toughest leaves from base of each artichoke. Trim each stem to about 3cm.
- Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and artichokes. Simmer for 15-30 minutes depending on size and freshness. Artichokes are cooked when a leaf from the middle pulls away easily and the heart is tender when pierced with a knife.
- Preheat oven to 200C. Halve artichokes lengthwise and place in an oiled baking dish.
- Crush garlic and salt together to form a paste. Combine with black pepper to taste, parmesan, breadcrumbs, parsley and a little olive oil. Spoon on top of artichoke halves and pat down. Drizzle with more olive oil. Cover with foil and bake for about 10 minutes, until hot.
Enjoy the tender centre (including the inside top of the stem) then scrape off the flesh of tougher leaves with your teeth.