Amongst the guilt free pleasures of eating vegetables is the enjoyment of their beauty through all the stages of preparation and cooking. I am much happier slicing through stems rather than cutting through tendons. Choosing vegetables affords me more pleasure than choosing slabs of meat. Much as I appreciate the skills of butchers, and indeed the taste of some of their products, I still feel a tinge of guilt when selecting pieces of dead animals. Maybe it’s a memento mori – I don’t know. I do know that I love the look and taste of artichokes.
The removal of each leaf just provides another wonderful image, unless you’re preparing them for 10 people, in which case anything can get quite annoying. There is an architectural quality to the raw vegetable, which has the ability to melt into a softer organic shape in hot oil, or to become practical when eating the leaves with a vinaigrette.
The technicolor quality of little poivrade artichokes is hallucinating. Yellow oil is the perfect compliment to the violets and endless subtle shades of greens, which makes me realise why I became a photographer instead of a painter. I’m just in too much of a hurry. The recipe for artichokes Veneziana uses these little violet artichokes. The outer leaves are removed and the artichokes are covered with a mixture of oil, white wine and water. After they have stewed gently in a covered pan for an hour the lid is removed and the heat turned up. There is a lot a spitting and bubbling as the liquid is reduced until only the oil remains.
And when they emerge, frizzled from the hot oil, they have gained a new and intriguingly metallic surface. They’re going to be delicious, and the colours appear to be making the glass of rosé seem unusually attractive.