Life is busy at the moment. The Teaching Kitchen is alive with chatter, chopping, questions, learning and eating. Heirlooms & Wooden Spoons is no longer just a sporadic blog, but a living, breathing cooking school in the heart of Seattle.
The last few months have included cheese making with kids, knife skills for the nervous, chocolate making, recreating favourite recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, and dinners. Lots and lots of dinners. Demonstrating the art of Tagine making in the Atrium Kitchen in Pike Place Market last week was a highlight. The electricity created by the hustle and bustle of the Market is infectious. Showcasing produce from my favourite suppliers, my favourite season, in my favourite Seattle spot, surrounded by old friends and new was magic. Just magic. Having my son help hand around Harissa filled me with pride. It is official – H&WS is a family business.
But this is about Carciofi. Or carciofini to be precise.
My husband despairs of me at times, and when I come home with a large grin and an armful of tiny artichokes his eyes roll into the back of his head just a little more than usual. For me, these gorgeous little gems signify that summer really is coming. In fact, that somewhere (namely Italy) it has already warmed up enough to produce these spiky little edible flowers. My husband is known for many things. Patience is not one of them.
It is true that this is not a dish you can whip up for a quick and easy supper, in fact, it will take you a lot longer to make than it will to eat. And so, I savour every moment of preparation, knowing that every second spent handling these precious purple flowers will be worth it the moment I pop it into my mouth.
Years ago, working at La Fromagerie, I would spend literally hours happily turning, trimming and packing them, as the hustle and steam of the kitchen simmered around me. Once prepped and on the stove, the terror of over cooking, crisping, undercooking or, God help me – burning them – was palpable. Not just the cost of the raw ingredients (a crate or two of baby carciofi, a couple of litres of Olive Oil) but also the time it had taken were at stake. I still feel the fear in the pit of my stomach. A fear only quenched by filling it with the end result. Artichoke confit is something I look forward to making every year. Go on. I dare you.
Not really a Recipe…
Take as many artichokes as you can carry/afford. carefully cut off a little of the bottom and peel the excess tougher outer petals off. Trim the tip of the petals and place in a heavy bottomed pot or oven proof dish bottom up. Pack them in tightly but don’t totally crush them. Pack half of a lemon, whole garlic cloves, a few bay leaves, a couple of chillies and plenty of fresh mint in and around them. Scatter a few peppercorns and sea salt and then pour over good olive oil until the are virtually submerged. Cook stove top very gently until soft, or in the oven, not too hot, again until just soft. Squeeze the cooked lemon and soft garlic over the artichokes, add more fresh torn mint, and salt to taste. Eat straight out of the pot once cooled down a little with a cold glass of dry white. Ideally with the sun on your face.