Braised Artichokes with Peas

I made dinner last night from The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan. I roasted a chicken leg and thigh with garlic, olive oil and fresh rosemary (I have a mini herb garden growing nicely on my window-sill at the moment), and to accompany it, I made these artichokes. I chose artichokes because I’ve never really cooked artichokes before. My friend Sarah and I tried the last time I was home but we were superbly unsuccessful – we couldn’t work out how to cook them or how to eat them. They have always puzzled me – these spiky green (or purple) vegetables, most of which you have to remove in order to eat. Mystery I tell you.

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Well, they’re less of a mystery now, although I’m still kind of sceptical about them. I followed Marcella’s comprehensive instructions (and illustrations) to trim the artichokes down and remove the choke. I kept questioning how much I was taking off and where the leaves were breaking from (should they really be breaking off this much? Why does the picture look like they just snap off easily whereas I’m using scissors? It was a serious half hour of self doubt.) But eventually I had something that sort of resembled the pictures –  I say sort of, because I later discovered (at the eating point), that, in fact, I should have taken more of the outer leaves off and I had to extract some of the more chewy pieces.

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The actual recipe for braising is pretty simple. Once you’ve cleaned and peeled the artichoke, and removed the choke, you remove the stalks (peeling them of the hard, green exterior). You then slice the artichokes into wedges and rub everything with lemon to keep it from going brown. You then sauté some shallots (I used two) in olive oil until tender before adding in half a garlic clove. Fry this until the garlic turns slightly golden before adding in the artichoke and six tablespoons of water. Reduce the heat so the pan is simmering and put a lid on. Cook the artichokes for about 15 minutes, until they’re tender to a fork at the thickest point. Add in half a small cup of frozen peas (which you’ve thawed), salt, pepper, and a tablespoon of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley. You can put in some more water if the pan is threatening dryness. Replace the lid and cook for a further five minutes. The artichokes should be tender.

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I served this with my roasted chicken but I suspect it’s a good accompaniment to many dishes (this serves two as a side). It felt almost like a spring dish, with all the green elements and the artichokes have a wonderful earthy taste whilst the parsley just lifts things slightly. I originally ordered two artichokes (online grocery shopping is my new favourite thing) but I only used one for this recipe. So I’ll be cleaning another artichoke sometime this week.