Walking in the countryside of France, you could be forgiven for thinking that this purple thistle was little more than a weed. But you’d be missing something really special. Catherine de Medici, an Italian princess, recognized this plant for the delicacy it is, and was responsible for bringing it to France in the late 16th century.
If using fresh artichokes, fill a large bowl with water and mix in the lemon juice. Remove the outer leaves from the artichokes and cut the tops off. Trim and peel the stalks. Cut in half lengthways and put them immediately in a bowl of water to prevent them from discolouring.
Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Drain the artichokes and add them to the pan. Cook for 3 minutes, turning occasionally with a wooden spoon, until golden brown all over. Add the garlic and lemongrass and squeeze a few drops of lemon juice over. Cook for a further 5 minutes. If using preserved artichokes, cook for 1 minute before adding the garlic, lemongrass and lemon juice and then for a further 2 minutes.
Add the wine and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook for 2–3 minutes until slightly reduced, then add the red pepper. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by at least half (to about
Meanwhile, you can make the dressing. Add the mustard, oil and balsamic vinegar to the cooking liquid. Season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.
When the artichokes have cooled, scoop out and discard the chokes, using a small spoon. Be careful not to lose any of the artichoke heart just below the choke. Cut the flesh into quarters, if preferred.
Arrange the artichokes on a plate, top with the rocket and Parmesan shavings, sprinkle with the dressing and serve. This is a delicious, refreshing and colourful dish, and also makes a great accompaniment to grilled meat or fish.
© 2011 All rights reserved. Published by Watkins.