Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Have your Artichokes and eat them :)

Artichokes - I love them SO much!  I love the idea of eating a flower bud, I love the idea of something so fleeting and seasonal!  The only problem I see with seasonal food is that I always want to enjoy it when it's out of season, without the added burden on our planet of unsustainable farming methods.

In Malta, I love how in just a few weeks, I'll be seeing a small field of these lovely plants, being allowed to mature fully so that the farmers can collect the seeds for the next year.  An artichoke in full bloom such a beautiful sight!!  The size of your head, a MASSIVE purple pall, just like your regular thistles, only much larger! :)  I drive past it every year, and it always seems to be at sunset, when the purple flowers look so pretty in the fading light :) 

When you think about it, the fact that Artichokes are a type of thistle really shows!

I know you can buy tinned artichokes or preserve them in brine yourself, but I feel that in this particular case, it detracts from the delicate flavour that is a freshly cooked artichoke.

The problem is easily solved:
Prepare them as you would normally, and freeze!

You can then use them in risottos, or orzotto (like a risotto, but made with pearl barley) or pasta.  You can make delicious dips and sauces too! They match wonderfully with seafood, and potatoes, and plenty of fresh extra virgin olive oil and crusty Maltese bread (Maltese bread is a white sourdough traditionally baked in a wood fired oven, very crusty on the outside, and chewy and quite moist for a bread, with huge holes where the sourdough bacteria has done good work)

You can start off by choosing to make the recipe I'd posted before about stuffed artichokes (click to get linked) add then proceed to the "preparations for freezing steps".  This would mean that you pretty much have a ready made sauce with garlic and parsley and all the delicious flavours.  I would not suggest making them with tuna if you plan to freeze them.  If anything, add the tuna in later. 

However, if you want to freeze plain artichokes and simply add in your flavourings later, you can also follow the following method:

Choose your artichokes (see the link to my previous post for more information), and buy as many as would fit standing up side by side in your saucepan of choice.  for me, this is 4 or 5, depending on the size.

Prepare them by chopping off all the stem so that they can stand unsupported.  Keep the last 10 cm or so of the stem, peel it until there's just the tender centre left, place the tender stem part in the saucepan.  Place the artichokes in the saucepan side by side, making sure they fit as tightly as possible, so that they can't float once you add the water they will be simmering in.

Add a pinch of sea salt (about 1/2 a teaspoon) and about 5 cm of water.

Cover pan, and bring to the boil, as soon as it's boiling turn it right down and simmer for around 1 hour, until a leaf can be pulled out of the centre of the artichoke with no resistance.  Check every now and then and if you see the water level is low, just add some more. 

Lift the artichokes and stems out of the pan, reserving the liquid, and allow to cool enough for you to be able to handle them with bare hands.  You can also allow to cool completely at this point.

Preparation for freezing:

The method is the same regardless of whether you're using the plain boiled artichokes, or stuffed ones. 

Now, the fun bit!

Pull the leaves out, and instead of using your teeth to scrape off the flesh, simply use a spoon to scrape it into a bowl or plate.  Keep doing until you've reached the heart.  You should have a mass of delicious artichoke flesh by this point :) Most of the flesh will be found in the heart, so I refer to this stuff as "artichoke hearts".  But really, it's all the possible edible stuff I can get out of an artichoke - the inner part of the stem included! :)

Simply collect it into a freezer bag, and throw in the freezer! :)  SIMPLE!!!! :D

The liquid can be used there and then as a concentrated vegetable stock, or can also be frozen.  

To follow:  A lovely Artichoke and tuna sauce for pasta.

Other links to recipes involving the artichoke heart/leaf flesh:

10 minute Artichoke sauce for Pasta

Fettucini with Grouper, Artichokes and Bottarga


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