The 5 year old connoisseur

Today's recipes are: Artichoke 101; and Vinaigrette with capers
A photo of a Lemon Caper Vinaigrette.

“Lamb is very good in a brown sauce with figs”, Lily bluebell informed me. I was quite taken aback. She is after all, only just 5 years old – I mean literally as I was at her birthday party last month. Clearly this blog has hit rock bottom if I am getting recipes from 5 year olds. Lily and Charlotte (her 3 year old sister who as yet has given me no recipes) were very excited about visiting our new baby rabbits and I said that we also have baby lambs that they could come and see. I deliberately said see and not eat, but it seems that French children know a good meal when they hear it. I also think that she has as yet not made the correlation between the cute and cuddly lambs and the delicious meal she was describing!

Lily and Florian

Lily’s birthday party was great fun. A couple of their friends had come up from Spain for the party, so we were a mix of Scottish (Sam), South African (moi), French (Florian and J-F) and Spanish (Dani; David and his mother Antonia). And lest we forget, the lovely birthday girl and her equally lovely sister. Florian made Moules et Frite (remember my “Mussels at the seaside” post?) and added a hint of curry and cream to the sauce. Divine is all I can say. J-F (which you say as Jeff, but is short for Jean François, I think!) made a strawberry cake and David a chocolate cake, both of which were very good. Poor J-F had put the grill on to heat the oven up quickly and forgot to turn it off (something I have also been known to do), so the cake had gotten a lot of heat before he noticed. He was able to save it though and we all enjoyed it.

Lily bday table

As you can see in the photo, Lil’s and Cha Cha also have gorgeous parents – so much for me surrounding myself with ugly people so that I can look better. I have unfortunately cut off half of Sam’s face, but she still looks great, damn it! Sam is temporarily working as an English teacher, but is actually a Marketing star who used to get flown to New York for meetings – how posh is that?! I was once told to take a flight to the moon, but I don’t think it carries the same sort of importance. So if you happen to be looking for a Marketing genius…. Her husband, Florian, is a Flight Steward/Purser in First Class so his good looks can only be viewed by the privileged – sorry girls.

We have had (and will hopefully continue to have) lots of lovely meals with them including a superb Veal Casserole that Florian made 2 weeks ago. The week before that, Sam made Roast Chicken with roast veg – always great. She had put in artichokes to roast as well, and although she and I liked them, the men were not that keen, so she suggested I write a piece on cooking artichokes. So no lamb with figs this week – I’ll do that another time just as soon as I’ve gotten some quantities from Lily.

artichokes in sun

I have a hard and fast rule for cooking artichokes which ALWAYS works well.
Put them into a pan with enough water to cover them.
Add a squeeze of lemon juice or vinegar to the water to stop the cut edges going dark. (The juice of 2 lemons or 100ml of vinegar in about 2liters of water should do the trick.)
Put a plate on top of the artichokes to keep them submerged.
Bring the pan to a boil and then allow to simmer for 15 minutes (5minutes more if they are really big.)


Now I’ll go into a little more detail. If you have a really big artichoke, you can cut off some of the outer leaves and trim the top inch of the hard thorny bits. Remove the bottom little leaves and a couple of rows of leaves. Rub any cut edges immediately with a cut lemon to avoid them going brown and then put them into water with either lemon juice of vinegar. I cut off the stem flush with the bottom of the artichoke so that it sits nicely on the plate to serve. But DO NOT throw away the stem!! It is delicious. Peel it to remove the hard outer bits and then boil it with the artichokes.
There is a fuzzy choke in the middle of each artichoke, which you cannot eat. Gently open it up and carefully scrape it out before serving. You then pull off each leaf and dip it in vinaigrette and eat the soft part of the leaf. The closer you get to the middle, the more soft bits you’ll find! You can then cut up the bottom into bite-size pieces.

If you harvest them really young, you can cut away the outer leaves with a sharp knife until you get to the inner greenish-yellow leaves. Again, rub them with lemon and put into acidulated water. You can cut them into quarters and eat the whole artichoke as the fuzzy choke will not be developed as yet.

I serve both the whole artichokes and the baby ones with lemon vinaigrette to which I often add capers ‘cos I love them and they go so well with vinaigrette. I serve the same vinaigrette with Leeks which I first boil in chicken stock for about 5minutes or until they are just tender.

60ml / ¼ cup lemon juice or good quality vinegar
125ml / ½ cup olive oil, extra virgin if possible
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5ml / 1 tsp mustard, Dijon if you have it
½ - 1 tsp sugar
1 tsp capers, lightly mashed with a fork
1 tsp fresh tarragon or ½ tsp dried tarragon, if desired

1. Beat the vinegar, olive, salt, pepper and mustard with a whisk until it thickens slightly – you want them to emulsify and not be separate from one another.

2. Add sugar to taste. I use more lemon / vinegar than in a French dressing where you use 1/3 vinegar to oil, so this might be a bit tart for some. You can add a ¼ cup more olive oil if you like. Add the capers and tarragon and serve with the artichokes.

3. Enjoy!!

Share this
Post new comment
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <img> <div>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may use [inline:xx] tags to display uploaded files or images inline.

More information about formatting options