I snipped 3 violet-coloured thistles from a ginormous artichoke plant that was swaying in the June breeze. I decided to cook them with two leg joints of chicken I extracted from the freezer and some provençal-inspired ingredients (and aïoli because I love it). Frozen artichoke hearts would be good for this too, and probably the tinned/jarred ones in a light brine or oil, I don’t see why not. I have wanted to cook artichokes since imported Italian ones began appearing in people’s photographs earlier this year – but I recently left the city for the seaside, and the shops here don’t have such luxuries. Then an errand brought me to my parents house and gave me the chance to use the violetta artichokes I planted there 5 years ago during a spell living at home. The council in my new town have just given me an allotment and I will be planting as many edible thistles as seems practical given their eventual size.
(Frozen artichoke hearts would be good for this too, and probably the tinned/jarred ones in a light brine or oil.)
Trimming artichokes and removing the straw-like ‘choke’ from the heart is a rough, prickly job (they are thistles…), but I like to do it. Not something to do in a rush, though. I would say this video is an approximation of how I do it, but there are several methods around on YouTube! – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZV7iU0NoYSs
Make sure you have a bowl of water with half a lemon squeezed in for the hearts after you have trimmed them – they go brown quickly like cut apple.
- Cut the top off the thistle a third of the way down.
- Trim off the tough green/purple leaves with a sharp knife until you reach the softer, yellower ones
- Scoop out the straw-like ‘choke’ with a teaspoon or knife (inedible!).
- Finally, generally ‘whittle’ the skin and tougher parts from the heart with a small sharp knife. If the stem isn’t too tough I keep around an inch of it attached and just peel the green skin off.
Recipe (for around 3-4 people)
4-6 pieces of chicken on the bone, with skin (I used 2 whole leg joints, each cut in half)
3-5 trimmed artichoke hearts, cut into quarters and waiting to be cooked in lemony water (or frozen/tinned ones)
5 cloves of garlic, skin on
1 sprig of rosemary
3 tablespoons of pitted black olives (I used Kalamata)
1/2 tin of tomatoes
1 small glass of white wine
3-4 large-ish potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks of around 1inch cubed
1/2 lemon to serve
3 tablespoons of olive oil
How to make:
Season the chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper. Place them skin side down in the olive oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed frying pan or casserole large enough to hold everything. Cook on a low heat and turn over when the skin is golden brown. When both sides are browned (but the chicken not cooked-through yet), set aside on a plate.
Add the garlic cloves, skin still on, and rosemary to the same pan and toss in the oil/chicken fat for a few minutes, still on a low heat. Add the artichoke pieces and toss in the oil. Add a glass of white wine and allow to sizzle for a minute, while scraping the bottom of the pan for any chicken that’s caught the bottom.
Add the chicken pieces again and simmer for a minute or so then add in the pieces of potato. Add enough water to almost cover the chicken, then 1/2 tin of tomatoes and the olives.
Simmer uncovered on a very low heat, just about bubbling, until most of the liquid has evaporated – leaving around 1/2 cm or so, enough for a few spoons of cooking juices each – (for me around 1.5 hours). Turn the chicken over once or twice to ensure all of it’s cooked. Check the potatoes are cooked with a knife. Season with salt to taste.
Allow to sit for a while before eating and come down to just above room temp. Squeeze over 1/2 lemon before eating and serve with aioli if desired. I did as I *love* when the aioli mixes with the cooking juices (recipe below, make it while the chicken is cooking). We followed it with green salad dressed with 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar, a pinch of sugar, a pinch of salt, a grind of pepper and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Have some fresh crusty bread too, if you want – we didn’t have any but wanted some!
3 egg yolks
2 cloves of garlic pounded until smooth with a pinch of salt
175 ml extra virgin olive oil (or a mix of sunflower and extra virgin olive oil) – placed in a jug
How to make
Add the yolks to a bowl with the garlic and a grind of pepper and stir well with a wooden spoon until mixed together. Really, really, really slowly, pour in the olive oil with one hand, stirring all the time with the wooden spoon with the other. Only add more oil when what you’ve already added is incorporated. If it becomes too stiff, add in a few drops of water and stir.