The simple pleasures of artichoke – dips for all seasons

by Forager on November 13, 2010

It’s been a bit hectic of late. Work has been ludicrously busy with early mornings and late nights. My social calendar currently largely revolves around my frequent chiropractor sessions since hearing the diagnosis: “Ooh, that’s unusual – never seen that before” (never words you want to hear uttered from a health professional); my newly enrolled yoga sessions – to ensure I don’t cripple myself any further and swimming lessons to ensure well, that I don’t drown. I have no idea when or how I’ll find time to fit in all the blogging I mean to catch up on.

We have the added drama of house hunting too – we came so close to finding our dream home. We put in an offer, had it accepted, did our due diligence with a pest and building report and were consequently introduced to the monstrosity that is rising damp. As a fault it sounded so innocuous we didn’t know what to make of it – since when did a little damp become a problem? As far as diagnoses go, we had no idea how to assess the risk – should I be worried like I’ve been informed that I have the flu and need rest or that I have highly contagious incurable flesh eating disease? How bad could it be?

A few “friend-of-a-friend” horror stories later and we know the answer to that question. I am now well acquainted with the risks of respiratory illness, allergies, smelly houses and ruined, mouldy clothes. We retracted our offer, watched with uncertainty as rising damp consumed our hopes of owning a home and sank into what I can only describe as depressive funk.

When did it all get so complicated?

In an environment and age where food is also getting more complicated – deconstructed, reconstructed, molecularised, localised, and with recipes that read like lengthy multi-step, multi-day scientific experiments – there’s definitely a place for simplicity.

One of the simpler things we’ve been enjoying recently are artichokes. Artichokes are actually edible thistles and if left to flower will develop deep purple flowers like the common or Scotch thistle. In Australia the most common cultivated varieties are the green and purple artichokes with a peak season starting in September and ending in November. As a springtime bloomer they’re currently still in season and though nearing the end of the season are still cheap, plentiful, tender and tasty. Whenever we see some fine specimens we pick them up and enjoy them as a snack, entree or on occasion, a post-midnight late supper treat. The portion of the artichoke we eat is actually the young flowering bud of the artichoke plant and the spoon shaped petals of the globe artichoke seem perfectly designed vessels for scooping up delicious tasty dipping sauces.

Simple pleasures artichoke and dips

Simple pleasures: artichokes and a variety of dips. From left: anchovy, garlic and jalapeno dip; capsicum, chilli and lime dip; and red wine vinaigrette dip

Artichoke and savoury dips

A simple vinaigrette is all you need to enjoy these petals, but you can of course create any dipping sauce you want. For this artichoke sampling session, we created 3 chunky sauces – a simple red wine vinaigrette; a diced capsicum, chilli, lime juice and lime zest variety and an incredibly moreish anchovy, garlic and jalapeno sauce – the last is a recipe based on one from the champion of slow food, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and I find it so addictive I could drink this sauce neat.

Artichoke petal spoons

Artichoke petal spoons - the perfectly designed canape and vessel in one


Anchovy, garlic and jalapeño dipping sauce

(Adapted from a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall presented on River Cottage Spring)


  • 3 salted anchovy fillets in oil
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp pickled jalapeño peppers, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp jalapeno pepper pickling juice
  • 4 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and cracked black pepper to taste


  1. Prepare artichokes.  We don’t tend to bother with this first step but worthwhile especially when serving others – prepare by cutting off the top to remove the spiky petals and remove choke with a spoon. Squeeze over lemon juice on cut surfaces to prevent the artichoke from oxidising and turning brown.
  2. Remove the tough, older leaves at the base of the stem and trim stem to about 3 or 4 cm.
  3. Boil or steam artichokes for 15 – 30 minutes depending on size. If boiling, use something to weigh down the artichokes to ensure they cook properly.
  4. Meanwhile prepare sauce by frying anchovies and garlic in olive oil until fragrant and browned. Add in other ingredients, mix and season to taste.
  5. Remove artichokes from water, drain and serve immediately with dipping sauces.
Fried anchovies and garlic

Frying anchovies and garlic is guaranteed to drive the neighbours wild with the aroma

There are plenty of other ways to enjoy artichokes – from stuffing them, frying them or shredding them for salads, but the pure simplicity appeals most to my inner sloth. There is something so therapeutic about the methodical action of peeling off petal after petal, dipping it in a piquant sauce and shredding off the succulent flesh between your teeth until you reach those rewarding soft, tender inner petals and the meaty heart itself. I liken the process to indulging in pot mussels for vegetarians – perhaps it’ll be the vegetarian version of all-you-can-eat-mussel nights!

Apart from just being tasty morsels, there are medicinal uses of artichoke, and it is said to aid in digestion and ease nausea and cramps; lower cholesterol through its active ingredient cynarin and even aid symptoms of constipation. Its the vegetable that keeps on giving. On further research, one report showed that the artichoke industry is minor in Australia when compared to global standards and it represents only a mere 0.03% of the gross value of Australian vegetable production. Consumption is reportedly fairly restricted to ethnic groups familiar with the plant and its uses. Surprisingly given the small local production, a small quantity is currently exported to South East Asia.

Out of curiosity, I asked my parents whether they’d tried artichokes before and they replied that they had once, but they found them unpalatable. When asked how they prepared and cooked them, they replied “stir-fried”.

Stir fried artichoke!! I can imagine why they thought it was awful. Maybe South East Asians are more familiar with this plant than the Chinese. Artichoke tea is apparently quite popular and produced in commercial quantities in Da Lat, Vietnam.

Tempting artichoke spoons

Tempting artichoke spoons just waiting to be eaten

But, if it weren’t for the Co-pilot introducing me to the simple pleasures of fresh artichoke, I wouldn’t have fared much better than my parents as my familiarity with this vegetable has been purely with pickled artichoke hearts. And given the artichoke season is almost over, I present you my favourite pickled artichoke dip to tide you over until fresh artichokes are plentiful again. This isn’t our own recipe but one introduced to us by good foodie friends Mr & Mrs Lightning DB and now adopted and promoted by us at all gatherings. Their baked artichoke, Parmesan and fresh jalapeno dip is so dangerously addictive, I have to issue a warning statement as undoubtedly, it’s so tasty you will flay the roof of your mouth trying to cram in great scalding mouthfuls of this scrumptious dip.

Baked artichoke, Parmesan and jalapeno dip

Baked artichoke, Parmesan and jalapeno dip


Baked artichoke, Parmesan and jalapeño dip


  • 1x 200g jar of pickled artichoke hearts in vinegar
  • 1 fresh jalapeño chilli, diced (if not available, substitute with a long green chilli)
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup of whole egg mayonnaise
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • crackers or fresh crusty bread to serve


  1. Simply mix all the ingredients together in an oven proof dish and bake on low – medium heat for 20 minutes at 180 degC until cheese has melted and bubbling.

Importantly, like the anchovy and garlic dip – for its appeal, this baked dip is so ridiculously simple to prepare. Simple tasty artichoke solutions for all seasons. And the best thing about both recipes – they force us to slow down, take a breath and savour our food. The fresh artichokes are designed for savoured consumption, and the inherent molten lava temperature of the baked dip will prevent  you from scoffing it down too quickly.

If only all the issues we encounter can be simplified so. For us tomorrow is the start of another weekend and yet another house hunting session.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Arwen from Hoglet K November 13, 2010 at 8:52 pm

You make them sound like fun to eat! My sister has grown a couple, but not tried cooking them yet.
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2 Adrian in Food Rehab November 13, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Bad chiropractor sessions and house damping issues!? Dayem! On a positive note- you still have your general health which means you can eat as much as you can and your award- congrats again Trina! I love this dip by the way.
Adrian in Food Rehab recently posted..From a book to a cafe Bread and Jam for Frances- HawthornMy Profile

3 Conor @ Hold the Beef November 14, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Stupid rising damp! How disappointing :(

As an anchovy fiend I shall definitely be making the anchovy dipping sauce. I can almost taste it already. Bit of an artichoke fiend too so I think I’ll have to make the dip as well (and I have what has been called an “asbestos mouth” so no fear of scalding will prevent me from ingesting the whole thing in a matter of seconds!)

4 Bonnibella November 17, 2010 at 9:09 am

These are indeed simple pleasures. Love how you made the sauces the center stage. You remind me of how much I miss making artichokes at home.
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5 anh November 17, 2010 at 2:50 pm

You are so right about simplicity! :) I have never tried boiled artichokes before! I need to, don’t I?
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6 Trissa November 17, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Hi Trina. I just emailed you about your house hunting woes. I share the pain!

7 penny aka jeroxie November 18, 2010 at 3:00 pm

I need to get onto this artichoke bandwagon…..

8 john@heneedsfood November 18, 2010 at 9:18 pm

I can relate to the rising damp situation. The 150 year old house we bought 5 years ago has a bit of a problem. Paint in starting to bubble in the bedroom, cupboards gather mould when we forget to change the Closet Camel and just one of these days we’ll pull our finger out and install more vents for air circulation beneath the floorboards.
Btw those artichoke spoons are adorable!
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9 angie November 18, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Awww all the best with the house hunting!
I’ve only ever seen artichokes in thios household whenever Mum buys them to make tea with.
I havn’t eaten much artichoke so am not all tooo familiar with how else to eat them.
This definately sounds nice and simple =)
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10 Maria @ Scandifoodie November 19, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Good luck with the house! It’s always stressful when things start happening all at the same time (which they tend to do)! These dips sound fantastic for artichokes, just delicious!
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11 mademoiselle délicieuse November 20, 2010 at 8:59 am

I definitely share your house-hunting pain. I’ve just been through the same process of having an offer accepted and having to withdraw it. So, it’s back to square one and continuing on with the hunting.

At least there are simple food pleasures like this to soothe the soul.
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12 Forager November 22, 2010 at 9:36 am

Hey Arwen – They are fun to eat! You should get them whilst they’re young – they’re so much more tender & tasty then – they get a woody taste when too old.

Hey Adrian – Thank you! Without overselling it, you should definitely try the dip – it’s awesome!

Hey Conor – Cripes – asbestos mouth! Love the term. I believe the Co-pilot has the same condition – he seems to down scalding food with frightening speed. Well if you like both anchovies and artichoke I hope you’ll love both these recipes!

Hey Bonnibella – The sauces deserve to be centre stage because without them the artichokes on their own can be pretty bland.

Hey Anh – Definitely need to try this simple boiled method if you haven’t before – it’s so very satisfying!

Hey Trissa – Thank you! :) I know I’m not alone in the fruitless housing hunt now!

Hey Penny – It’s all about artichokes at the moment.

Hey John – Yeah, we’re starting to understand that all old houses seem to be plagued with the same damp issues, the difference is the degree of damp. The houses we grew up in had a tolerable patch, this one had 50% of the wall surfaces in high rising damp. I guess if we find another place with a low degree we’ll accept that. As for the artichoke spoons – I very much expect them to turn up at the next canape event. They’re designed to be canapes really!

Hey Angie – artichoke tea? How fascinating! On it’s own or mixed in with other tea? You’ll have to share the method on your blog. I wonder what it tastes like?

Hey Maria – Thanks – we need the luck!

Hey mademoiselle delicieuse – Argh, then you must really know the pain of the process. It’s so exhausting and emotionally draining huh? I truly empathise! Good luck with your hunt too!

13 nic@diningwithastud November 24, 2010 at 10:27 am

Oh dear! Its all very hectic for you at the moment. Good luck with the yoga – it did wonders strengthening me and thats no easy feat. Iv got my fingers crossed for you guys with the house hunting too!
The dips look fab! I love artichoke with japanese mayo too. Weird combo but went really well together.

14 Trisha November 27, 2010 at 8:21 am

Creamy artichoke dip is one of my most favourite dips in the world!! I could gobble down a whole entree of this & still have room for mains!

15 Vivienne December 9, 2010 at 11:05 pm

Artichokes is one of those things I’ve never bought before in my life…as I’ve not a clue how to prepare them at home since it was not something I grew up with! I’m def going to give this a chance next time…but too bad it’s just about to go off season :(

Hope the house hunting is going along well these days!
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