Traditionally prepared with catnip, but mint will do fine (and you’ll avoid the attentions of stray moggies). Select artichokes with stems, and with heads of between 3 and 8 cm long. The leaves should be pliable and not too spiky. The preparation of artichokes may seem very complicated, but once you have seen it done, or had a go yourself, you’ll understand the basics, and can be confident.
To prepare the artichokes, you will need lots of lemons and a large bowl of water into which you squeeze some of them. You will need a small serrated knife, a peeler and a small curved chef’s knife usually known as a ‘turning’ knife.
Cut the stem 1 cm below the artichoke head and rub with the cut lemon. Cut the artichoke head itself halfway down from the top – be ruthless! – then discard the top and rub the cut surface with the cut lemon. Pull off the outer two or three layers of leaves until you expose pale tender leaves; rub these with lemon too. With the curved knife trim off the stubs of the leaves; rub these with lemon. Peel the stem with the peeler, then rub with lemon and put the artichoke in the lemon-acidulated water. Note the mantra ‘rub with lemon’. Repeat with all the artichokes. As the cut lemon halves are used up, throw them into the water. The prepared artichokes can be stored completely covered in their water for up to a day in the fridge.
Cut the carrot, celery and onion into 5 mm dice.
Put the oil, wine, vegetables and herbs into a stainless-steel or enamelled pan, then add the artichokes, some salt and several whole peppercorns. Add 2 of the half lemons from the artichoke preparation. Add enough water to just cover the contents. Cover with greaseproof paper then insert a plate that will fit snugly inside the pan to hold down the artichokes, i.e. to keep them submerged (a smaller pan lid is very effective for this, and is known as a drop lid).
Bring to the boil over a high heat. Turn down the heat and simmer slowly for 10 minutes (if the artichokes are large, 15 minutes). Remove from the heat and allow to cool and finish cooking in their liquor. Transfer to a sealable container, preferably non-metallic, and store in the fridge until needed.
© 1996 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.