Artichokes with lemon and herbed butter sauce
- 4 globe artichokes
- 100g butter
- teaspoon dried mixed herbs or herbs de Provence
- pinch ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper, or to taste
- zest and strained juice of a lemon
For this recipe I've taken the liberty of being a little bit French by adding herbs to the butter sauce, and lemon juice and zest to help cut the richness of the butter.
Mrs Beeton suggests adding a couple of teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda to the cooking water to help prevent the artichokes' vibrant green colour from fading as they cook. This was a common 'old housewife's' trick which is now much maligned, but it does work!
|Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil (about half a teaspoon of salt per artichoke). Meanwhile, cut off the stems close to the base of the globe and remove the tougher lowest row or two of leaves. If the leaf tips are pointy and hard, trim off the points. Put the artichokes into the water, return to the boil then keep on a steady simmer for 25–30 minutes or until centres are tender and leaves come away easily when gently pulled.
Meanwhile, prepare the butter sauce. Put 3 cm of water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Put the butter, lemon zest, herbs, nutmeg and pepper into a heatproof jug or deep bowl and stand it in the saucepan. Turn off the heat and stir the butter gently for 5 minutes, or until the butter has melted. Add the lemon juice and a good pinch of salt, or to taste. Check the balance of flavours and adjust accordingly, then leave the jug in the warm water while the artichokes cook, to allow the flavours to develop.
Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the artichokes from the saucepan and allow them to drain in a colander for a minute or two, heads down.
Serve in individual bowls, with a side plate to receive the spent leaves. To eat, pluck each leaf from the artichoke from its tip, dip the base of the leaf into the melted butter and scrape the leaf between your teeth – the edible flesh is on the underside of the leaf closest to the base of the leaf. Discard the rest of the leaf and continue until all the leaves are finished. The soft, unctuous heart is the reward, but the fibrous 'choke' at the base of the globe is coarse and bitter, so discard it without being tempted to try it – unless you're one of those people who needs to experience something before believing.