Eat your artichoke heart out

This week we’re going to delve into the soft insides of globe artichokes and discover their fleshy secrets…

There are a number of ways to eat artichokes, some less glamorous than others. Several times in my life I have returned home to find my notorious Leaf Eater and Dad, perched on the sofa with a bulbous green head on a stubby talk on their plates, pulling leaves through their teeth (given her name on this blog, I don’t know why I’d expect anything else from Mum). Slightly more concerning for me is the boiled stench permeating the corners of the house. Having said that, extracting an artichoke’s feathery flesh with a dash of hollandaise on the side actually sounds like a satisfying dinner to me.

Artichoke hearts are a delicacy that I treasure. Slipping the lid off the jar that glows slightly with a golden-green hue and drawing out a gleaming, slippery misshapen thing with layers as dainty as a baby lamb but as juicy as a fresh tomato, the anticipation is real. The vinegary notes nestle among silky folds with a subtle taste of spring, which is the season they represent in the ‘Four Season’s pizza.

Artichoke hearts also form the base of a herbal tea produced in Vietnam and flavours an Italian liqueur produced by Campari, which I did not know before.

I went to Gusto Ricco in Leamington Spa with my flatmates the other week. When we entered it was quite busy and I experienced a wisp of discomfort when a table seating three were asked twice if they were ready to leave the table, especially as we were dithering by the front door hardly two metres away from them. I’m not sure this is the most fool-proof way of retaining customers, but eventually we sat down and chose what we were lunching on.

I’ll admit it, I already knew what I was going to have here. I’d seen a vibrant salad strewn with artichokes float out of the kitchen before, and once your heart intertwines with that of an artichoke, the relationship becomes somewhat absorbing. The salad on the menu also came with mozzarella but I switched it for peppers.

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A hefty salad arrived, with a soy latte to slug on the side. Lots of leaves, olives and dressing – tick tick tick, although the cherry tomatoes had been unceremoniously plopped on the side like marbles queuing up for a slide. A couple of slices of pepper-studded bread were on the side, and artichokes crowned the heap of greenery.

They were plump, juicy and scrumptious. The rest of the salad was sufficiently put together, although I had to hunt for needles of sundried tomatoes and red peppers which was a bit disappointing, since if peppers cut into slivers turns them into surreptitious shivers of nowt.

The latte was hot and I, while no coffee expert, liked the flavour. The atmosphere of GR speaks cosy with dark wooden surroundings, old tins, posters and paraphernalia balanced on spare surfaces. The place is reasonably priced (my salad about 7 and my coffee roundabouts 2.50).

Sinking teeth into fleshy hearts, what a gruesomely delightful image. Does this leave my own vulnerable to attack??

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