The ritual of preparing globe artichokes

The ritual of preparing globe artichokes

Green Pickled Peaches
Chris Chen

I recall, as near ritualisation, the care my family members took in preparing tropical fruits.The ritual signalled how highly valued were these fruits and also how important it was to do things for the family.This leads me to think about how, as a chef, I sometimes have to follow rigid rules in ingredient preparation.Traditionally, the great fear about globe artichokes lies in their potential to discolour (something which may or may not affect the flavour in its cooked state). My basic method for preparing the artichoke is simply not to hesitate but to forge ahead with relentless determination.

For the globe artichokes


Quantity Ingredient
1 lemon
2 globe artichokes

For the custard

Quantity Ingredient
3 large eggs
400ml light chicken s tock
2 teaspoons dry sherry
1 teaspoon light soy sauce

For the piquant shrimp dressing

Quantity Ingredient
3cm piece of cinnamon
1 star anise
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 brown onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bird’s eye chillies, deseeded and chopped
3 tablespoons dried shrimp, soaked in water for 1 hour
6 prawn heads, gills and top hard shells removed
1 cube fermented red bean curd
150ml vegetable oil
3 tablespoons sugar
50ml rice vinegar
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
a few drops ses ame oil


  1. Prepare the globe artichokes:
  2. Have about 1 litre of cold water ready in a bowl. Halve the lemon and squeeze the juice into the bowl, then throw in the halves, too. Also have a pot of simmering water ready. Cut off an artichoke’s stem, and peel it if it is fleshy (that is, with a lot of translucent white under the tough outer skin) and so worth cooking. Put in the bowl of acidulated water. Peel the artichoke base with a small knife until you reach the yellow-green flesh. Peel off the leaves one by one until the really small tender leaves are revealed. Reserve some of these leaves in the acidulated water. Continue until the fleshy heart is revealed. Using a spoon, scrape out and discard the hairy choke in the centre. Rinse quickly in cold water and drop into the acidulated water. Repeat with the other artichoke. When ready to cook, place a couple of teaspoons of salt into a saucepan of boiling water, add the artichoke hearts and stems and cook for 15 minutes until the flesh can easily be pierced without much resistance. Drain, cool and cut into chunks.
  3. Make the custard:
  4. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk lightly. Whisk in the chicken stock, sherry and soy sauce. Leave for 10 minutes, then skim off any foam. Divide the artichokes among four ovenproof bowls or ramekins. Pour the custard over the artichokes to cover. Place the bowls in a roasting tin and pour hot water into the tin to come two-thirds of the way up the sides of the bowls. Cover the whole roasting tin with foil. Put in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. The custards should turn a lighter colour and be set but wobbly.
  5. Make the piquant shrimp dressing:
  6. Lightly roast the cinnamon, star anise and black pepper in a preheated 160°C oven for 10 minutes. Grind the spices to a fine powder. Blend the onion, garlic, chilli, dried shrimp, prawn heads and bean curd with 50 ml of the vegetable oil to a fine paste. Fry in a pan with the rest of the oil over medium heat until the raw prawn flavour has disappeared and the paste has separated. Meanwhile, melt the sugar in a heavy-based pan over medium heat until a dark caramel colour. Take off the heat and cool with 2 tablespoons of water, then add the rice vinegar and soy sauce. Allow the caramel to dissolve into the rice vinegar and soy sauce over low heat. When dissolved, stir into the cooked paste. Season with a few drops of sesame oil.
  7. Assemble the dish:
  8. Blanch the reserved young artichoke leaves and refresh under cold water. Dry thoroughly. Take 3 tablespoons of the shrimp dressing, being mindful to scoop some of the oil from the top also, and dress the young artichoke leaves. Place a few leaves on top of each cooked custard. Spoon some more of the shrimp dressing over the leaves so it floods the custard’s surface. Serve warm.
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