There are many things that are out of reach for someone who is eternally on a budget: hair cuts, new clothes, beauty treatments. Still, I’m someone who is just happy to look neat—and I don’t even achieve that most of the time, so it’s not much of a sacrifice to give up these little luxuries.
The thing that I miss the most is browsing food emporia, the culinary world literally my oyster. This weekend was a case in point: I was wondering around the supermarket trawling the ‘reduced’ aisle when some chargrilled artichokes caught my eye.
Those self same eyes nearly popped out as I zoomed in on the price. I mean, I love chargrilled artichokes as much as the next man, but this particular pack contained four quarters, and cost £3.49. There was no gold or diamonds listed on the ingredients, so one can only assume this is a royal rip off, especially in the middle of artichoke season.
I can do better than that, thought I.
Off to the grocer I went and bought three whole artichokes for £3. I had a bottle of sherry vinegar kicking around, of which I used 100ml (£1.59 for 375ml = 42p). I used 100ml of olive oil (£6.21 for 2 litres = 31p), 2 lemons (30p each) and a tsp of fennel seeds (24p for 5g). I used some bay leaves and rosemary from the garden, so I’m counting them as free.
I make that £4.57 for 12 quarters, or £1.52 for four quarters. Now I haven’t counted the energy cost of actually cooking these beauties, labour or packaging costs (although I’m using recycled jars and as previously discussed, my time comes pretty cheap!). In the same way that some supermarkets write off their corporation tax, I’m just going to sweep those costs under the carpet. Even so, that is less than half the cost. Take that supermarkets!
These babies are beautiful alone, or as part of an antipasto/tapas platter. I adore anything with an aniseedy tang, and it will go beautifully with the dish I’m planning to serve these with, but if you are not a fan of fennel, try chilli and rosemary or oregano.
Makes: 12 quarters (2 large jars)
3 globe artichokes
2tbsp vinegar (white wine or malt – whatever you have knocking around)
100ml sherry vinegar
100ml olive oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut long fat strips of zest from the lemons. Fill a large bowl with cold water and squeeze in the juice of one lemon.
Prepare the artichokes, peeling off the outer leaves with a knife until you reveal the softer, yellow leaves below. Pare back the stalk, removing the woody outer layer (if you use baby artichokes, you can skip this step), then cut each artichoke into quarters, rubbing each with lemon juice and dropping into the water as you go to prevent discoloration.
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add 2 tbsp of vinegar (I had an inch of white wine vinegar kicking around, but malt will be fine) and the artichokes and simmer for 20 minutes (less if you are using baby artichokes).
Drain and season, then drizzle over a splash of olive oil and the juice of the remaining lemon and toss to coat. Pop a griddle pan on a high heat and sear the artichokes on all sides until slightly charred/browned then pop to one side.
Warm half the oil in a pan, throw in the lemon zest and fennel seeds and heat until they sizzle, but remove from the heat before they brown. Stir in the other half of the oil then remove the zest with a slotted spoon and chuck over the artichokes. In a separate pan, warm the vinegar but don’t allow to boil.
Pack the artichokes into jars with the lemon zest, bay leaves and rosemary. Pour over the vinegar then cover with oil. Leave overnight for the flavours to infuse, then keep for up to a week in the fridge.
Once you have devoured the artichokes, keep any leftover oil/vinegar in the jar to use as a salad dressing.