Artichokes a la Provencale

This is a classic French method of cooking artichokes. Served on its own it makes an attractive and unusual hors d’oeuvre.

It is also an excellent vegetable accompaniment to grilled chicken.

4 artichokes

2 pints water

24 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped

4 slices bacon, rinds removed and cut into pieces

2 garlic cloves, crushed freshly ground black pepper

4 teaspoon dried basil

12 oz. canned tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato puree

1 tablespoons brandy (optional)

4 fl. oz. white wine

8 fl. oz. chicken stock or water and

1 chicken stock cube

1 bouquet garni, consisting of

3 parsley sprigs,

1 spray of thyme and

1 bay leaf, tied together

Cut off the stems of the artichokes, remove the small leaves at the bases and cut off the tops of the leaves, leaving the artichokes about 3 inches high.

Slice the artichokes into quarters, and, with a spoon, scrape out the chokes. Put the water and 2 teaspoons of the salt into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the artichokes and boil for 5 minutes. Drain the artichokes on kitchen paper towels and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan or flameproof casserole over moderate heat. Add the bacon and fry until crisp. Stir in the onions and garlic and fry for 5 minutes or until the onions are soft.

Place the artichoke quarters into the casserole and spoon the bacon mixture over them. Stir in the remaining 4- tea-spoon of salt and 6 grindings of black pepper. Add the basil, tomatoes, tomato puree and brandy, if used. Bring to the boil over high heat then reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

Pour the wine and stock over the artichokes, add the bouquet garni. Cover and cook over low heat for ½ hour.

If there is too much liquid raise the heat and boil quickly until the liquid has reduced slightly. Remove the bouquet garni before serving. Serve immediately.

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