This is an elegant, French, summery stew we're currently enjoying; quite similar in some ways to the artichoke stews you find in Rome. I was inspired by Rowley Leigh's recent feature in the Financial Times magazine. It was about the food of Marseille and included several excellent recipes, including a genuine bouillabaisse. Researching artichauts à a barigoule, I discovered many different versions. Some included mushrooms, others carrots; most had garlic. My recipe is similar to Rowley Leighs', but I've added garlic and chopped parsley.
Take some fresh baby artichokes, and cut the tops off- just above the heart. Snap off the stems, trimming away the outer green bits so that you end up with a nice, rounded vegetable. Immediately dip the baby artichokes into a mixture of white wine vinegar and water to preserve the colour.
Cut a sweet white onion in half, and slice thinly. Add a dash of olive oil to a hot pan, and start cooking the sliced onion until it wilts. Add a generous handful of bacon lardons, and let them fry. Peel and slice some baby carrots, and add them to the pan. For variety, I sliced the carrot in two different ways: directly across to create roundels, and in half, lengthways, once the root had been removed. Add a teaspoon or so of crushed garlic.
Drain the artichokes and place them in the pan. Top up with white wine and water, until the artichokes are covered. Add a few sprigs of thyme, a teaspoon of white sugar and bring to the boil. Crank down the heat and stew very slowly with the lid on.
I reckon forty five minutes at a very low heat should be about right. Check the seasoning, adding sea salt and white pepper if you feel it needs it, and remove the thyme stalks. It's almost like a soup. Serve in a deep bowl, and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley. If you're feeling in a peasanty mood, you can mop up the stew with hunks of French bread.