Friday, July 11, 2008


There is nothing better than home made.
And I mean truly home made- from scratch- better again if you grew it first.

But let's face it- most of us don't have the facility to do this. So the closest we can come is finding good quality fresh ingredients, close to the source and then giving the preparation our best shot from there.

In an attempt to really appreciate and connect with our food- we have been making as much as we can for ourselves. The list so far looks like this:

Pasta (thanks to Ash's love of his little silver pasta roller)
Bread (from organic flour)- helped marginally by a bread maker (when time is short)
Cheese- we only mastered this very recently and I urge everyone to try it- particularly if you love your cheese, there is a real sense of accomplishment here.
We are pikkling our own olives.
Museli (we have a preferred mix of our own)
All pasta sauces (never rely on a bottled 'authentic' taste- freshness is what gives a sauce its authenticity)

I recently decided that if I loved a food enough- and in my mission to be 'unafraid in the kitchen'- then I should learn to make it. Particularly if I did not know how to (hence the cheese experiment with junket).
Learning how to make those things that you love and are willing to spend money on, gives you such a sense of joy and appreciation of food. So imagin- if you already love it, you'll be that much closer to it if you really did 'make it yourself'.

So, I am slowly gathering a list of things that I must try to make myself, beyone all the endless recipes and combinations of general meals, flavours and foods that constantly plead with me to give them a go.

Outside of a usual meal, these are the things I have yet to tackle-
*CherryRipe (the little bites of chocolate, not the unbiquitous slice)
*More cheese (mozzarella mastered- camembert here I come!)
*Duck pancake
*Yum Cha (all kinds of dumpling goodness)
*Chai spice blend
*Qunice paste / preserved quince
-I'll update more as they occour.

But today's challenge is cooked/marinated 'artichoke hearts'. It starts with the beauty in a fresh artichoke- at my local IGA I simply could not resist them- they were so verdent and snappy looking. I briefly glanced at them and my mind was flooded with horror stories of how difficult they are to cook and so I walked on by. But, on my second round through the fruit and vege isle and steering away from the usual cavalcade of vege's I thought- well hang on a second, you pickkle your own olives and make your own cheese, in face you're here to get salt for both these things right now, why not give marinated artichokes a go? How hard can they actually be?
And here is how hard they actually were.

When I began I had no real idea of how to treat the artichokes- various books said that I needed to 'remove the choke' from mature artichokes. After peeling back leaves and seeing no practicle way to do this without destroying the globes themselves, I desisted. I simply trimmed the stems, peeled back the leaves until they revealed the more tender inner leaves and removed about 1/3 from the top of the artichoke to get rid of the tough leaf tips.

Here's the best way I found to prepare them:
Rub the cut sections with lemon juice to stop enzymatic browning (so ugly) and then immerse the chokes into 'acidified water' for the same reason.
Set a pot of water on the stove and when at a roiling boil, submerge the chokes in the water (weight them down with a plate if necessary) and let them to boil for 15-20mins- until a skewer tells you they are soft.

While they are boiling- make a vinagrette (lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and in our case chopped parsley & tomato).
When the chokes are soft, drain them well.
Serve warm, topped with vinegrette- they havee the most wonderful slightly bitter and earthy flavour, follwed immediatly by a sweetness that is delicate and illusive!
The best part is that artichokes contain a natural chemical called cynarin. When you eat the fresh artichoke the cynarin reacts in the mouth and causes everything to tatste slightly sweeter. I had read this before, but until cooking my own arrtichokes, I had never experienced it first hand.
This amazing chemical caused even the air itself to tase slightly sweet to me. What an absolute pleasure!

These simple artichokes complement a steamed white fish fillet, boiled new potatoes with butter and an undressed baby leaf salad perfectly.
The greatest joy through the whole meal was eating artichoke, followed directly by a baby salad leaf- the sweet sensation was truly amazing. A chemestry experiment I strongly reccomend.

No comments: