Use small spring artichokes with succulent stems in early youth. Peel back the outer leaves, cut off about a third of the calyx at the top, and cut off the stems – pare the tender part of these and cut into small pieces. Open out the artichokes a little, gently. Wipe them with the cut halves of a lemon; this prevents discolouration.
Fit them into an enamelled pan, bottoms down, putting the stems in the gaps. Add water, but not so as to cover, then pour some olive oil into each of the slightly opened artichokes. Add salt, pepper, some coriander seeds, some leaves of mint, bring to the boil with the lid on, and cook vigorously for 20 minutes. The liquid will be partly absorbed and will partly evaporate.
Serve hot or cold, dressed with olive oil, wine vinegar, and a little of their liquor.
The reason that artichokes are always served to begin a meal is that their flowers and those of the allied cardoon contain a milky substance which, dried, was used to coagulate milk in cheese-making. As with the fig, this has a peculiar effect on the taste of wine.