Omelette with Artichoke

We love artichokes! It’s such fun to serve a steamed artichoke with a nice dipping sauce made of mayonnaise, whole grain mustard and some lemon juice. Thoroughly relaxing food. And when we have time on our hands, we prepare them à la barigoule.
Recently we wrote about la Cuisine Niçoise d’Hélène Barale. In this very informative book about the traditional food of Nice, you will find a recipe for an omelette with artichokes. We liked the idea, did our shopping and followed the instructions. Unfortunately, sorry Madame Barale!, we were not too happy with the result. The recipe suggests frying the omelette on medium heat on both sides. We think that’s a bit too much: in our case the flavours of the fried egg overwhelmed the subtle taste of the onion, artichoke and garlic. We tweaked the recipe (see below) but that shouldn’t stop you from buying the book and preparing the original.

The taste of the omelette is sweet thanks to cynarine, an intriguing chemical especially found in the leaves of the artichoke. Cynarine will enhance even the slightest trace of sweetness, in this case the sweetness of the onions and the cooked garlic. The taste of the artichoke is also nutty and bitter in a gentle way, which works really well with the eggs.

Wine Pairing

The cynarine will also enhance any sweetness in your wine, so you need a bone-dry, crisp, unoaked white wine with clear, present acidity. For instance a Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner or Albariño.

What You Need

  • 1 Large Artichoke
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • 2 Eggs
  • Olive Oil
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Clean the artichoke, steam for 45 minutes depending on the size and let cool. Use a spoon to remove the ‘meat’ from the leaves (bracts) of the artichokes. Use a fork to make a chunky mash of the heart. Set aside.
Chop the shallot. Warm a heavy iron skillet, add olive oil and gently fry the shallot. Add the artichoke, mix and leave for 10 minutes on low heat. Mash the cooked garlic and add to the mixture. Add some black pepper. Beat two eggs, a bit longer than usual. Add the eggs to the mixture and allow to set, very slowly, making sure the omelette is baveuse (moist, warm and soft).

La Cuisine Niçoise

There are not many cities that can rightfully claim to have their own ‘cuisine’. The French city of Nice is one of them. Just think about Salade Niçoise, Bagna Caude, Tourte aux Blettes and Socca. Strongly influenced by Italian cuisine it is flavourful, rich and varied.

Hélène Barale was owner and chef of the restaurant Chez Hélène in the Rue Beaumont, number 39 in Nice. Here she prepared delicious, regional and traditional food. Ravioli à la Niçoise, gnocchi’s, panisses, pissaladière, ragout de mouton, loup grillé, pattissoun, everything freshly cooked in her kitchen for 150 guests per day.

Three examples

Panisses are made with chickpea flour, water, salt and olive oil. You make a hot dough, allow it to cool and set, then cut it into chips and deep fry. Serve with black pepper. Delicious.
Obviously you also want to know what Pattissoun is! If you search for it, you will find references to a nicely shaped squash, but Hélène Barale’s recipe is for a cake. She makes it with flour, yeast, sugar, raisins, orange zest, rum and eau de fleurs d’oranger (orange flower water). Sounds absolutely lovely.
Another very tasty recipe is for an omelette with artichokes. It’s a combination of onions, garlic, artichoke and eggs. Straightforward recipe, yummy result.

Retirement

She retired at the age of 88 in 2004. For a few years the restaurant was a museum, but it is now closed. Thankfully her son Paule Laudon wrote down 106 recipes of his mother’s cuisine. His style is very clear so it’s not too difficult to prepare the dishes. The book looks like a cahier and it is edited with much love and care. It comes with an interesting introduction by Paule Laudon, the text of Nissa La Bella, which is the unofficial anthem of the city (O la miéu bella Nissa/Regina de li flou/Li tiéu viehi taulissa/Iéu canterai toujou/etcetera, meaning something like O my beautiful Nice/Queen of all flowers/Your old rooftops/I will always sing of you/etcetera) and pictures of the restaurant. The book does not contain pictures of the dishes.

La cuisine Niçoise d’Hélène Barale (in French only) was first published in 2006 and is now in its 11th edition. You can buy it via the usual channels and the French publisher for € 15,90.

Artichoke à la Barigoule

It’s the time of year to enjoy artichokes: steamed, as a salad, in a pie or perhaps à la Barigoule. This is a rather intriguing recipe from the French Provence region. There are lots of variations, so we looked in books like La Cuisinière Provençale and La Cuisine Niçoise d’Hélène Barale to find the ‘original’ recipe.

Obviously you want to know what ‘barigoule’ means. According to Hélène Barale ‘barigoule’ means thyme, which is odd because she doesn’t add thyme to her Artichoke à la Barigoule. Is it perhaps derived from the Latin word mauruculai (meaning morel according to some and saffron milk cap to others) as the Larousse suggests? But what is the link between artichokes and mushrooms?

Three Versions

We found three different ways of preparing Artichoke à la Barigoule: cooked with onions, white wine and carrot, stuffed and preserved with lots of citrus. The stuffed one is probably the original version because the artichoke is stuffed with a mixture of mushrooms, thyme and garlic. Which makes the Larousse explanation more likely.

Preparing Artichokes a la Barigoule is quite a bit of work and the result, we must admit, looks like an old fashioned underbaked meatball. We could imagine you serve the artichoke halfway the recipe. If you do, best is to use smaller artichokes.

Wine Pairing

It’s not straightforward to pair artichokes with wine. According to various researchers this is due to cynarin, a chemical especially found in the leaves of the artichoke. When the wine and the cynarin meet in your mouth, the natural sweetness of the wine is enhanced, making it taste too sweet. So you have to pair artichokes with a bone-dry, crisp, unoaked white wine with clear, present acidity. For instance Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner or Albariño. 

What You Need

  • Artichokes
  • Cooking liquid
    • Shallot
    • Carrot
    • Olive oil
    • White wine
    • Water
    • Thyme
  • Filling
    • Mushrooms
    • Egg yolk
    • Garlic
    • Shallot
    • 2 Strips of Bacon
    • Thyme
    • Black Pepper
  • Excellent Olive Oil

What You do

Remove outer leaves and stem of the artichokes. Add oil to a large pan, gently fry the chopped shallot and the chopped carrot. After 10 minutes or so add white wine, thyme and some water. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the artichokes to the liquid, close the pan and allow to cook and steam on low heat for 45-60 minutes or until nearly done. You could decide to stop here and serve the artichoke with the (reduced) sauce.
Let the artichokes cool, remove the leaves and the centre choke (the hairy part).  Use a spoon to remove the ‘meat’ from the leaves (bracts) of the artichokes. Set aside. In a small skillet heat some oil, add chopped shallot, glaze, add sliced bacon, mushrooms, garlic and thyme. Leave for 10 minutes until done. Add the artichoke meat from the leaves, stir, add the egg yolk and mix. Add freshly grounded black pepper. Use a food processor to make the mixture smoother, but not too smooth. Fill the artichokes with the mixture. It should look like an oversized golf ball on top of the bottom of the artichoke. You will probably have too much filling, which is fine. Gently transfer the artichokes to the pan with cooking liquid and allow to steam and warm for 30 minutes. Now transfer the artichokes to a warm oven (60 ˚C or 140 ˚F).  Add the reaming mixture to the liquid, use a powerful blender to create a sauce. Pass through a sieve and blender some more. Set the blender to low speed and add excellent olive oil. Taste and adjust. Serve the filled artichokes on a small plate with the sauce.

I Know How To Cook

We have all been there, you read a recipe, you decide to prepare the dish, only to find that some essential information is missing, that the ingredients are impossible to find or that the result is something completely different. For instance, we once decided to prepare a fairly complex dish. It consisted of four components, one being a popcorn-like version of saffron rice. The steps were not too challenging: cook sushi rice with saffron, dry for 2 days and then fry in oil on 180 °C or 355 °F for 10 minutes until the rice looks like popcorn. Sounds do-able, doesn’t it? Apart from the ‘like popcorn’. All rice turned out fat and golden-brown. Finally, we figured it out: we had to use a neutral oil with a very high smoking point, for instance refined sesame seed or avocado oil. But that information wasn’t provided in the recipe. Why not, we wonder, isn’t the goal of a recipe to help the reader prepare it? So why not provide all the necessary information?

(In case you wonder what the smoking point of oil is, it’s the temperature on which the oil breaks down. That’s when it may release unhealthy, damaging chemicals and nasty flavours. Olive oil has a relative low smoking point which is why you should pay careful attention to your pan when using it for frying.)

Je Sais Cuisinier

Ginnete Mathiot approach to recipes is clearly based on an ambition to educate, to transfer and share knowledge. She was born in 1907 in Paris and pursued a career as a teacher and inspector in home economics and as an author of many cookbooks. She didn’t own a restaurant, she never worked as a chef, she wasn’t a tv-celebrity. She was focused on sharing recipes and useful household and kitchen information. Millions of copies of her cookbooks were sold and many more benefitted from her knowledge and experience.

When she was 25 years old she published her classic Je Sais Cuisinier. Today the book is known as La Cuisine pour Tous. The English version is titled I Know How to Cook. It is a very useful cookbook with recipes that truly help you to prepare a dish. She also wrote excellent books on patisserie and preserves.

When you leave through I Know How to Cook you will notice helpful sections on spices, aromatic vegetables and flavourings, you’ll see a well written glossary of essential cooking terms, seasonal suggestions and many more aspects of food.

Given the time of year we looked for the artichoke-section of the book. Such a delicious vegetable! She includes a recipe for Artichoke Hearts Printanière (artichoke hearts with a filling of mushrooms, shallot, boiled egg, ham and artichoke, grilled in the oven) and for Artichokes à la Barigoule. This is a classic dish from the Provence region. The artichoke hearts are stuffed, wrapped in bacon, fried and then cooked in a sauce with carrots and onion. The artichoke is then served with the (strained) sauce. Next week we will publish our  vegetarian version of this classic.

Her books (in French, Italian and English) are available via your local bookstore and the usual channels.

I Know How To Cook
I Know How To Cook

Artichoke Pie

A few days after we published our recipe for Tourte de Blette a friend told us about the great taste of artichoke pie and how popular this dish is in Italy, especially in Liguria. Since we love artichokes, we dived into our cooking library, looking for recipes.
Interestingly most recipes refer to canned or marinated artichokes. But wouldn’t it be much better to use fresh, young artichokes? Other ingredients are cheese (Prescinsêua, or a combination of Parmesan or Pecorino and Ricotta, perhaps some Crème fraîche or even Feta), herbs (parsley, thyme or oregano) and eggs.
We like the combination of artichoke and thyme (as we did in our salad), but we could imagine oregano to be a good choice as well.
We remained close to Tourte de Blette and prepared a rustic, open pie, but feel free to create one with pastry on top.

Wine Pairing

It’s not straightforward to pair artichokes with wine. According to various researchers this is due to cynarin, a chemical especially found in the leaves of the artichoke. When the wine and the cynarin meet in your mouth, the natural sweetness of the wine is amplified, making it taste too sweet. So you have to pair freshly cooked or steamed artichokes with a bone-dry, crisp, unoaked white wine with clear, present acidity. For instance Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner or Albariño.
We enjoyed our Artichoke Pie with a glass of Château Pajzos Tokaj “T” Furmint, a dry, bright, fresh wine with zesty, nutty and mineral flavours made from the Hungarian Furmint grape. A unique wine and perfect in combination with the artichokes.
Cynarin and wine are not a match made in heaven but the good news is that cynarin seems to protect your liver and even helps it regenerate.

What You Need

  • For the Dough
    • 100 gram of Flour
    • 50 gram of Water
    • 10 gram of Olive Oil
    • 1 gram of Salt
  • For the Mixture
    • 4-6 young Artichokes
    • One Shallot
    • Olive Oil
    • 30 grams of Rice
    • 2 Eggs
    • Fresh Thyme
    • 20 gram Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
    • Black Pepper

What You Do

Cook the rice and leave to rest.  Combine flour, salt, water and olive oil. Make the dough, kneed for a minute or so and store in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Clean the artichokes, steam for 30-45 minutes depending on the size and let cool. Chop the shallot. Warm a heavy skillet, add olive oil and gently fry the shallot. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Using a spoon remove the ‘meat’ from the leaves (bracts) of the artichokes. Chop the hearts in four. You may need to remove the centre choke (the hairs). Strip a generous amount of thyme.
Whisk two eggs and combine with the artichokes, the shallot, the rice, the thyme and the freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Add some black pepper.
Roll out the dough with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface. Coat a 15 cm or 6 inch round baking form with oil (or use a sheet of baking paper). Place the dough in the baking form and add the filling. Transfer to the oven for 40-50 minutes on 180˚-200˚ Celsius or 355˚-390˚ Fahrenheit. Immediately after having removed the pie from the oven, brush the outside with olive oil. This will intensify the colour of the pastry. Let cool and enjoy luke warm.

Artichoke Salad

Love Your Artichoke

A beautiful flower and an intriguing ingredient. A large artichoke with some mayonnaise, mustard and vinegar makes for a wonderful, relaxing starter. The smaller ones are great when turned into a salad or when served with tagliatelle as a starter.
Steaming is the ideal way to prepare artichokes. The flavour remains intact and the leaves will become soft yet firm.
Don’t be tempted to buy preserved artichokes hearts. In most cases these are only about marinade, vinegar, sugar and unidentified spices. Whereas artichokes should be about taste and especially texture. It’s a thistle you’re eating and not something white and fluffy from a jar.
Key to this salad is the combination of artichokes and thyme. Lots of thyme! Enjoy the light, earthy and slightly bitter flavour of the artichokes in combination with the aromatic thyme.

Wine Pairing

You can serve this salad to accompany an aperitif, or with some bread as a starter.

What You Need

  • 6 small Artichokes
  • Olive Oil
  • (White Wine) Vinegar
  • Mustard
  • Thyme
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Remove the stem of the artichokes and steam the artichokes for 30 – 45 minutes, depending on the size. Remove and let cool. Peel of the first layers of the outer leaves. Make the dressing by combining the oil and vinegar and then adding the mustard. Cut the artichokes in 6 or 8 parts. Add the dressing to the artichokes, mix well, making sure all artichokes are coated. Sprinkle lots of thyme and carefully mix again. Put in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. Mix again, taste, add black pepper and perhaps some more thyme and serve!