It's winter and time for the log fire once more. This means it's also time for thinking about cooking in other ways too and putting to use all that raw heat. Breads, pizzas, bakes and pies come to mind as well as a personal favourite - baked sweat potatoes. But one dish I've tried recently was an instant success, inspired by a photo from a thyme travelling artichoke friend.
He introduced me to the idea of roasting them over embers instead of steaming them, and they looked fantastic. My taste buds then took over.
The Humble Plant
Native to the Mediterranean area and a member of the thistle species, the artichoke is said to have derived its name and popular use from Muslim Spain. The plant was later introduced to England by the Dutch and to California by the Spanish. (In fact I believe that California was introduced to Californians by the Spanish too).
But artichokes don't just taste good, they are said to reduce blood cholesterol levels and to aid digestion. Make the most of their cheap availability over winter by preparing them in the following way:
Chop off the tops of the artichokes
Remove some of the harder leaves
Cut of most of the stems
Some recommend lemon juice, but I prefer to drizzle a little soy sauce into the very centre
Sprinkle with garlic seasoned virgin olive oil
(Optionally place inside the centre a clove of garlic)
Sprinkle a little salt
Wrap in silver foil and place in the fire for about thirty minutes. Some say less, 10 - 15 others say longer. I found they need to be really well done to be able to dismantle the leaves and remove the heart easily. The fleshy ends of the leaves - as usual - are munched upon - but on this version they have an oily, garlicy, salty taste and therefore do not require the usual bucket of mayonnaise consumed with steamed artichokes.
If you do not have access to an open fire or a BBQ, then use your oven, but you will be missing that special aroma that can only be found from wood cooked food.
The Essential Tool Kit - Oil with garlic or chilli makes a special addition