My sister (who is a much better cook than me!) had a birthday this week. Happy birthday Donna!
Artichokes, to my mind, are too fiddly for everyday eating, but they make the absolute best party food. Nothing nicer in this world than sitting around a big platter of grilled artichokes with aioli dipping sauce, with a big mob of sisters and nieces and nephews and parents and various assorted ring-ins. The eating is slow enough to fit in around news and plans and ideas and jokes and stories. Artichokes take up a lot of room for the yield, but they are hardy and easy and worth growing just for this.
Fill a bowl with water and squeeze half a lemon into it, then throw in the skin.
Cut the artichokes in halves lengthways and scoop out the “choke”. This is the hairy immature flower in the middle. It sits on top of the artichoke heart (which is the best bit), surrounded by the leaves. I find a teaspoon is the best implement. This is the fiddly bit of the process.
Process the artichokes one by one, putting each into the bowl of lemony water as you go. This will stop them going black.
Pressure cook the cleaned halves for 5 minutes, or boil for 15 minutes. You want the heart to be soft when pierced with a skewer, but you don’t want the leaves to be falling off.
Meanwhile, make a marinade of lots of garlic crushed in equal amounts of lemon juice and olive oil. Shake together in a jar. Drain the cooked artichokes and pour the marinade over them making sure to coat the cut surface. You can do this much ahead of party time and put them aside till you are ready to barbeque.
The Horseradish Aioli
(If you don’t have horseradish, you can make garlic aioli instead.)
Using a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle or a good food processor, blend a piece of horseradish root to a paste with a pinch of salt and a little water. Add a splash of white vinegar.
In the bowl of your food processor, blend two teaspoons of this horseradish paste with two egg yolks and two tablespoons of white vinegar.
With the food processor going, pour in half a cup of grapeseed oil in a very thin stream. Start very slowly, drop by drop. It should emulsify and go thick and pale yellow. Add 2 dessertspoons of lemon juice and salt to taste.
Barbeque the marinated artichoke halves for a few minutes face down on a grill, just to get them warm and charry.
This is real communal eating. You start from the outside, pulling leaves off, dipping in the sauce, then running between your teeth to scrape off the creamy artichoke at the base of each leaf. As you get closer to the heart, you get more and more creamy bit on each leaf, till you get to the heart which you can eat holus bolus. Provide napkins and finger bowls – it’s messy, but so good.