With our own artichoke plants in the garden only just recovering from the cold weather in February, and some perhaps not having survived at all, our artichokes will be late this year, if we get any at all. I couldn’t resist a bouquet of small ones in the market yesterday:
I was inspired by a piece on spring recipes by Ruth Rogers in the Observer on Sunday that included a recipe for artichokes baked in foil with thyme. Of course, I made a couple of changes to the recipe: first, our thyme is just beginning to grow again and I didn’t want to pick too much of it so I used mint instead. I cut the outside leaves off the artichokes and peeled the stems, then put half a fresh garlic clove and some mint leaves into the heart of each one. These are too small to need the choke removing, but with bigger ones you would have to cut the choke out.
The other change I made to the recipe was to wrap the artichokes in greaseproof paper rather than foil. When you cut artichokes you have to rub the cut edges with lemon juice or, as I did, put the whole artichoke into a bowl of lemon juice mixed with water. I’ve found that when lemon juice touches aluminium foil the acid makes holes in it, so I decided to use paper instead. I put each artichoke on a piece of paper big enough to wrap it in, ground some salt and pepper and poured some olive oil over it, then wrapped it up like a parcel, twisting the ends to seal them, a bit like a Xmas cracker. I put the parcels in an oven dish and baked them for about 50 minutes (longer than Ruth Rogers recommends, but this may be because my oven is unreliable).
They made a very tasty first course, with all the flavour sealed in but still with the leaves browning a little, and a good alternative to baking them in an open dish.