Artichoke and Asparagus Casserole in Butter and Cider Sauce

This is best served on its own, and makes an excellent starter.

Ingredients

  • 12 small or 4 medium globe artichokes
  • 2 lb / 900 g green asparagus
  • 3 oz / 85 g unsalted butter
  • 2 oz / 60 g shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 fl oz / 60 ml good dry white wine
  • ¼ pt / 140 ml dry cider
  • ¼ pt / 140 ml vegetable stock or water
  • 6 oz / 170 g diced tomato flesh
  • 8 basil leaves, torn into shreds
  • 3 tbsp crème fraîche (optional)
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • chervil or parsley

Method

If using medium artichokes, remove all the leaves and the chokes. Put the artichoke bottoms in a bowl of acidulated water. Small artichokes need only the outer leaves and the leaf tips removing. Quarter small artichokes, or slice artichoke bottoms into four or five pieces or cut into wedges. Blanch in boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain. Remove and discard any woody stems from the asparagus, and break into in / 4 cm. pieces. Blanch the asparagus pieces in boiling water for 4–5 minutes, then drain and refresh under cold running water. Reserve the tips for garnish. Melt 1 oz / 30 g butter in a flameproof casserole, and add the shallots, artichoke pieces, white wine and cider. Bring to the boil and cook briskly for a few minutes. Add the stock or water and continue cooking until the artichokes are tender but still firm. Remove the artichokes and boil the cooking liquor until reduced by half. Put the artichokes back in the casserole with the asparagus pieces and bring back to the boil. Add the tomato and basil, stir in the crème fraîche, if using, and season to taste. Warm the asparagus tips by pouring boiling water over them. Divide the vegetables between eight individual dishes, and garnish with asparagus tips and chervil or parsley.

Variations

Courgettes could be used if artichokes are not available, although you would need to adjust the cooking time.

Cook some small new potatoes in the casserole, and serve with some lightly boiled or poached eggs, even quail eggs, to make a marvellous main course for a vegetarian dinner.