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It’s spring vegetable time here in New Zealand – always my favourite eating season. When I found this artichoke at my local food market I snapped it up and prepared it the way my father taught me. Here’s how:

You will need: a globe artichoke, olive oil, garlic, Italian parsley, salt, black pepper, butter and balsamic vinegar (optional), water.

Slice off the stalk and loosen the leaves. Put artichoke in a saucepan – it should fit fairly snugly. Stuff a little chopped garlic and Italian parsley in between the leaves, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle over half a teaspoon of salt and some ground black pepper. You can also add a dash of balsamic vinegar and/or a knob of butter. Now add a small amount of water – no more than a finger deep –  to the pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour with the lid on so that it steams. You can add more water if it starts looking dry but it shouldn’t. It’s cooked when you can pull off an outer leaf and the lower part is tender.

 Serve in a bowl with the cooking juices poured over the top. You eat the artichoke by scraping the  lower part of the leaf with your teeth. It looks greeny/grey and unappetising but tastes delicious (at least I think so). I dunk each leaf into the cooking juices for extra flavour. When you get to the tiny centre leaves they’re not worth bothering with so pull them off, remove the stuff that looks like the head of a shaving brush and you’ll find the real treasure beneath. Again it may not look as if it’s going to  taste that wonderful but in my house we fight over who has the biggest bit. Soak up the last of the juices with some crusty bread.

Artichokes are rich in antioxidants and a source of folate, magnesium, vitamin C and fibre. They grow like weeds in warm climates.  They’re good served as a starter or as a side dish with meat, pasta, fish or risotto.