getting into Camus..


I have no compunction in firmly closing a book and returning it to the shelf if I am not enjoying it or, indeed, if I simply do not like it. On one such occasion, when I was very much younger, finding myself so disengaged with the words I was reading,  I threw the book out of the window of a moving train. We grow older and sillier and in that silliness our compass becomes less fixed, meaning that we can meander backwards and forwards through time finding new pleasure in things we would previously have shown the window. I have to confess that I have never found the wonder that is enjoyed by so many in the plays of William Shakespeare. During my school days I read, studied and indeed successfully answered questions on a handful of his works and on leaving school worked a summer job at Chichester Festival Theatre where the finest Shakespearean actors plied their trade. I am now neither keen on actors nor Shakespeare. Maybe I have haven’t had one that I liked. The same may be said about artichokes. They have a very sophisticated reputation in good restaurants as an hors d’oeuvre and they look as though they were designed by an architect but, as with WS there’s an awful lot to plough through before you get to the good bit. I cannot bring myself to use the name Globe Artichoke because of the Shakespearean overtones so I will continue with the French nomenclature of Artichaut Camus…a writer who I remember enjoying very much when I read a couple of his books whilst I was at art school but I have no idea why: it may just have been because he was French. It has to be said that these huge artichokes have another quality that attracts and that is their cheapness. Elizabeth David is someone who I do enjoy reading ( maybe if Shakespeare had included more recipes I would have warmed to him) and it was a small piece in her seminal work “French Provincial Cooking” that set me to preparing this simplest of all suppers. The piece caught my eye, not only because I had looked up “artichoke, things to do with” in the index, but also because it was not just a recipe but a description of a dinner she had enjoyed, some 50 years ago, at La Mere Brazier in Lyon, a restaurant that I myself visited last year. Ms.David had eaten saucisson en brioche, sole meuniere and poularde en demi deuil, a daunting affair, and was wondering how on earth she would manage an artichoke heart topped with a slice of foie gras that was to be the next course. As it turned out, the artichoke heart was served as the simplest and lightest of salads although, I have to admit, I could not have dealt with preceding three courses let alone considered an artichoke salad before cheese and dessert.


For this salad each person should be served a whole artichoke heart and therein lies the only fly in this particular ointment. The artichoke in the opening picture is in a large le Creuset casserole and there certainly isn’t room for another in there…which makes me think this is a supper for one. Thinking of the logistics for preparing this dish for six people makes me want jump out of the window of a moving train leaving the book on the seat. Back to preparation. Cut the stem off and then cut off the top of the artichoke. Put the prepared artichoke into a casserole of well acidulated and salted water, bring to the boil and cook for about 40 minutes. Drain and cool the artichoke, but don’t let it get cold, and then remove the outside leaves and the choke, leaving you with the tender artichoke heart. Put some good salad leaves, such as mesclun, onto a plate and dress the salad with oil and lemon ( or maybe some tarragon vinegar),place the heart on top and drizzle with the same dressing. It’s worth a try…if you don’t like it, chuck it out of the window.

About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
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40 Responses to getting into Camus..

  1. Great looking artichoke and salad.

  2. Serena says:

    Phenomenal! That bread makes me miss Italy even more…

  3. Rob Bennett says:

    Great pic Rog

  4. Sally says:

    “Thinking of the logistics for preparing this dish for six people makes me want jump out of the window of a moving train leaving the book on the seat.” Oh you do make me chuckle. And how do you keep your Le Crueset that clean?!!

  5. Angeline M says:

    Something to be tried immediately.

  6. Lori M-I says:

    “poularde en demi deuil” Google translates this to 1/2 widow chicken or 1/2 dead chicken..doesn’t sound the least bit appetizing =( (though I’d rather eat a dead chicken than a live one).

  7. Mad Dog says:

    I’m with you generally. Shakespeare leaves me cold, though I have enjoyed acting in a few of his plays. The single exception to this, IMHO, lies with an astonishing English theater company, now decamped to France. If you ever get the chance to see Footsbarn, jump at the chance and take all your friends. I’ve seen them enchant small children and make grown men weep… and not just with Shakespeare. I’ve seen Footsbarn perform at least 30 plays since I was a teenager and never been disappointed.
    Now back to food – that artichoke looks absolutely beautiful – don’t share it! 🙂

  8. Francesca says:

    What about the sonnets Roger? You must dabble in some of these. Nice artichoke dish- must give it a go when Spring returns to the garden,
    Ode to Carciofi
    SONNET 98

    From you have I been absent in the spring,
    When proud-pied April dress’d in all his trim
    Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
    That heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him.
    Yet nor the lays of birds nor the sweet smell
    Of different flowers in odour and in hue
    Could make me any summer’s story tell,
    Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew;
    Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
    Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
    They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
    Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
    Yet seem’d it winter still, and, you away,
    As with your shadow I with these did play.

  9. ardysez says:

    Lovely photograph. I’ve eaten quite a few artichokes in my life but never this way and it looks very promising. Once they are in season again, and if we actually get any here in Alice, I will try this. It might just be easier to come to France and look for it. 🙂

  10. Eha says:

    I stand somewhat on the opposite side of the fence from you. Of course, when you and I were ‘young and gay’ [in the then meaning!] one simply had to be into existentialist literature and Camus and Sartre played such a large party in any dinner party conversation. Husband dear handed me every book and article and was full of admiration: I did not throw the books out of a train window, but read and put aside shrugging. On the other hand, absolutely love Shakespeare: then and now. Like Mad have acted in some of the plays myself, even have been filmed with Portia in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ being the highlight of my ‘career’!! Am having a few days in Sydney with the Tour de France crowd in November and Shakespearean theatre tickets were bought ere I got my hotel reservation 😀 !! To each their own . . .

    • As you say “to each his own”…by the way, the book I threw out the window was “The Impossible Question” by Krishnamurti..I had no business reading it as, at the time, I was a young hippie filled with earthly lusts and not looking to answer an impossible question in a crowded commuter train waiting to get into Waterloo!

      • Eha says:

        *biggest smile* Am attempting to picture this august photographer, writer and chef as a hippie! Led a ‘sheltered life’ and was not allowed near any!!!! Krishnamurti . . . wasn’t he Annie Besant’s adopted son: theosophy and all that stuff!! Blatantly ignorant but feel like looking him up now: oh dear Father up above, why can’t you make the days longer!!!!!!

  11. Michelle says:

    Gorgeous artichoke and salads. I’d say I was right there with you on the Bard, but I did have one absolutely wonderful prof in college for one semester of the required two. So, I like the plays we read that one semester and not the others!

    • I know that feeling…I had a wonderful English literature tutor, Father Hanshell S.J, who introduced me to Ezra Pound, Hopkins and Joyce amongst others. Possibly the only bit I care to remember of my school days.

  12. I had a few good laughters reading your post, I so agree with you about Shakespeare, I guess because back in school it was drilled into our heads therefore I lost total interest in it. Well your artichoke looks fantastic, I like them but I don’t really know what to do with it, as you say sucking on those leaves isn’t my idea of eating. So now you opened an artichoke heaven for me and I thank you for that.

  13. Karen says:

    I would never think to throw out that lovely artichoke heart. I wouldn’t mind tossing the leaves though…they are not worth the effort.

  14. I do love artichokes but alwas thought it was a bit of a palaver. Fortunately, one of Big Man’s family grows acres of them so we get given a lot and I no longer feel guiilty about preparing them like the Spanish – peeling off almost all of the leaves and just enjoying the heart! Gorgeous dish, wonderufl shots (as ever).

  15. Perfection. Camus may have had something more colorful to say, but I’ll keep it simple 🙂

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