Friday, September 10, 2010

sides as mains II: golden fried artichokes

I wish I wasn't so lazy. If I wasn't, I'd cook artichokes more often. I'd especially cook them like this. Artichokes dusted with a little flour, fried until golden and served sprinkled with salt and a squeeze of lemon - these are found often on the Greek dinner table when in season. I had a craving for them this week so bought three big artichokes from the market and proceeded to procrastinate cleaning and cooking them for the whole week. But the food-wasting guilt built up, so I sat down earlier this evening with knife in hand, over a lurid blue bowl of acidulated water and carved those babies up. Like most things you I procrastinate doing, it took less than half the time I thought it would. And it was so worth it.

If you've never cleaned artichokes before, they can be a bit intimidating. After all, they're spiky, armored things and one of the oldest continually cultivated vegetables known to man. So before you decide to do this, you should know that when parboiled, dusted and fried, artichokes become something close to the ultimate vegetable; the outside leaves separate a little and transform into the crispiest chip-like petals that encase the vegetable's tender centre that is sweet, clean and slightly nutty. I hope you're convinced.

Not yet? Maybe if you think about how the sprinkle of sea salt on these hot, crispy chippies amplifies the deliciousness by another 100%, and then how the squeeze of lemon adds zing and freshness, balancing out the richness of the fried crispy coating. Did I mention that I've upped the nuttiness here and given these a super-fine extra-crispy coating by replacing the regular flour with besan, otherwise known as chickpea flour? So this is totally worth it.

There's great instructions with pictures here for preparing artichokes. Before beginning, fill a bowl with water and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. You can throw the lemon in as well. Save the other half - you'll need it to rub the cut sections of the artichokes to stop them from going brown. Make sure you're using a sharp knife, otherwise this can be a dangerous operation! You might be shocked at how much of the vegetable you end up throwing away, but rest assured that the rest is inedible and the middle is worth it! What you're left with you can bake, braise or boil. After this you can grill them or make them into an ace gratin. They're really good with eggs, cheese, thyme, peas, bacon, homemade mayonnaise or aioli. Or you could dust them with besan and fry until crispy and golden, as below.

Golden fried artichokes

3 artichokes, cleaned and halved
1 lemon, halved
1/2 cup of besan (chickpea) or plain all-purpose flour
light olive oil, to shallow fry
sea salt

1. Squeeze one lemon half into a saucepan of water and bring to a rapid boil. Drop in artichoke halves and cook for around 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender but soft (poke with the end of a knife to test this). Drain into a colander and let cool. This step can be done ahead of time, if necessary.
2. Heat olive oil in a deep frying pan until hot (not smoking). Meanwhile, toss artichokes halves in flour on a plate. Tap to remove excess.
3. Fry artichokes until golden on both sides. Transfer when done to a paper-lines plate to drain.
4. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste and serve with lemon wedges.

1 comment:

  1. I hope I will do the artichoke thing one day but the time and the waste just put me off it - not for lack of wanting to eat them as I believe you that they are delicious but I do feel I would have them sitting in my kitchen making me feel guilty about my procrastination! Am impressed you made the effort and the results look wonderful


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