Driving home from work a couple of days ago I was listening to an interesting discussion on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour about comfort food; what constitutes a food to be classed as this and what was the choice of the studio guests. I disagree that to be classed as comfort food, the ‘said item’ should be eaten outside mealtimes and that it should be a solitary pleasure. Also, there was a definite weighting to ‘crisp’ textures and enormous references to chunky Kit-Kat as opposed to its 4 fingered sister. It started me thinking about what I would choose but, as happens when driving, I forgot all about this as the road became busy.

But, popping into the vegetable market for a few odds ‘n ends today, the earlier discussion winged right back into mind; I spotted the rather unseasonal violet artichokes on offer at 2 for 2 Euro… there was my perfect choice for a comfort lunch on a drizzly-grey, cold day.

They are so simple to cook – slice off the stalk and about the top ⅔ of the leaves then pop into boiling water for about 18 – 25 minutes, depending on how small or large the artichoke is. To help maintain its colour a splash of lemon juice, or cider vinegar (rice or white wine vinegar works well too) should be added to the water then cover with a lid to cook. Test after about 18 minutes though a minute either way will make little difference; the tip of a sharp knife inserted into the base will determine tenderness and also the small outer leaves at the base will easily pull away.

Tip the artichokes into a colander and allow them to drain for a couple of minutes before tackling the center hairy choke which is inedible. This will take a few minutes but, I enjoy the therapeutic nature of the task… drag a stool over to the counter, have a dish or plate to deposit the leaves then enjoy…

You will need to hold the still warm artichoke in a tea towel whilst with the help of a teaspoon, you remove the center leaves – they have a spiky tip so are easily recognizable. As they begin to come away, the central choke comes into sight – scrape away and dispose of all of this; it would be like eating a mouthful of needles.

With a little practice the above really doesn’t take too long but, this isn’t a fast food it is a comfort food and to me this involves a whole ceremonial performance of cooking and eating.

The next stage is the main event…. Begin by tearing away the central leaves to dip into melted butter before nibbling… these are so wonderfully tender that it is possible to eat the whole leaf. Gradually working outwards, the leaves become tougher so, dripping with butter, it’s a case of grazing the fleshy stems through teeth whilst watching an ever growing pile of discarded leaves. Fingers, lips and chin are buttery glistening so a roll of kitchen paper is useful if you don’t feel like licking away the excess.

Eventually it is the meaty heart to be enjoyed; drizzled with what’s left of the melted butter then finely sliced…