Spring Awakening

Fresh Artichokes and Tortoise Creek Sauvignon Blanc


by Janie Master

The first luscious artichokes have arrived from California for us.  These bulbous thistle-heads make a really spectacular but light supper or lunch dish and are really pretty to serve as a starter for dinner parties, too.  Just like asparagus they are quite perfect when you just boil them and serve them hot with a lemony butter.  They are both just as delicious when you chill them down, however.

Artichokes used to be my favorite appetizer in Provence when we lived there.  They were served in every restaurant quite simply with lovely thick mustardy vinaigrette.  The bittersweet earthy taste of the heart goes well with almost any dressing but the secret is not to overcook them to death as they then become flabby and turn nasty dishwater brown.  Here are three ways of making them special.

Cooking the Artichoke

Water, Vinegar, and Lots of Salt


  • 4 large artichokes
  • 2 tablespoons mild or white vinegar (this keeps them green)
  • Lots of salted water


Cut your artichokes’ stem s off cleanly as near to the leaves as you can.  Take a deep heavy-bottomed pot with a lid and fill it 3/4 way up with water and add 3 – 4 tablespoons of salt as if you are going to cook pasta.  Don’t worry – the artichokes won’t become too salty as they are so hard.  Now stir in the vinegar and dunk the artichokes down in the water opening up some of the leaves to fill the heads with water.  This prevents them floating to the surface too much.  Try and arrange them with their heads up as much as you can.  If you are only cooking one or two they will float on their sides and you should turn them over half way through their cooking time.

Bring the water to the boil and simmer, covered, for 35 – 45 mins depending on their size or until you can pull out one of the leaves out with a sharp tug.  Cooking them more will make the leaves fall off and the centers become slushy and tasteless.  When they are cooked remove from the heat and scoop each one out with a slotted spoon and turn them upside-down in a colander to drain out all the water.  Leave to cool upside-down.


Green herbed artichokes with shrimp

(seves 4)


  • 4 cooked and cooled artichokes
  • 4 large cooked shrimps split in half sideways
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped chives
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 4 heaped tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • grated rind and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


First prepare the artichokes.  Tear off the smallest leaves from the outside and discard.  Remove the rest of the leaves with their meaty bases and arrange around 4 individual side-plates in a circle.  Take out the ‘choke’ centers of each artichoke carefully using a dessert spoon and discard.  Place the bases of the artichokes in the center of the plate.

Whip the cream until it is thick and firm. Mix all the herbs into the mayonnaise and add the lemon zest and juice.  Beat in the olive oil and season with salt and black pepper.  Fold in the whipped cream and place a spoonful or two on the top of each artichoke base.

Arrange the split shrimp halves on the top of the cream and serve any excess sauce in a small bowl.

Artichoke and mushrooms with basil oil

(serves 4)


  • 4 cooked and cooled artichokes
  • 8 small white mushrooms sliced thinly
  • 1 cup roughly chopped basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (or any light oil)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Tear off the smallest outside leaves of each artichoke and discard.  Remove the rest of the leaves with their meaty bases and arrange in a pile on one side of 4 side plates.  Carefully remove the ‘choke’ from each artichoke and discard.  Cut the bases into thick slices.  Arrange the mushroom slices and the artichoke slices in alternate rows on each plate and make the sauce.

Keep 2 tablespoons chopped basil aside for garnish.  Place the rest in a food processor or blender with the oil and the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.  Blend well until the oil becomes emerald green and strain through a sieve into a measuring jug.  Adjust seasoning again adding more lemon juice or vinegar, salt and pepper if necessary.  Pour over mushroom and artichokes and scatter with chopped basil.

Artichokes with anchovy aioli

(serves 4)


  • 4 cooked and drained artichokes
  • 8 anchovy fillets
  • 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 4 tablespoons yogurt
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • black pepper to taste


First prepare the artichokes.  Place each artichoke in a cereal bowl or shallow soup bowl.  Carefully open up the center of each pushing all the outside leaves away from the center.  Take out the tight center of the leaves by holding the point and wiggling them loose and discard.  Carefully remove the ‘choke’ with a dessert spoon.  Now you have left the base of the artichoke surrounded with the biggest leaves.  Prepare the sauce.  Mash or pound the anchovies to a paste in a pestle and mortar or in a small bowl with a wooden spoon.

Add all the other ingredients and adjust seasoning mixing together well.  Spoon into the center of each artichoke and serve with crusty bread.

Enjoy with a bottle of

Tortoise Creek Sauvignon Blanc “Cuvée Jeane”!