There is a hilarious story about my grandparents’ first date where my grandmother ordered an artichoke on the waiter’s recommendation. When it arrived – steamed and still very much whole – she didn’t know how to eat it. She tried to distract my grandfather with conversation until he asked why she wasn’t eating. Admitting defeat, my grandmother confessed she didn’t know how and so began their love story, with my grandfather showing her how to peel back the leaves, dipping them one by one into the hot melted butter until she reached the perfectly tender core.
I always think of them when I serve artichokes at a dinner party, and it makes for a wonderful story around the table. So too does the origin of this month’s main course, spaghetti puttanesca (believed to have been the creation of the women who worked the brothels of Naples). I’ve finished things off with a dainty pudding of soft baked apricots with rosemary and vanilla.
I like to serve this with a magnum of AIX rosé. There is something so joyous about a magnum of rosé and they are perfect when entertaining. I have made a resolution to open use them at dinner parties more often.
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Globe Artichokes With Homemade Mayonnaise
There is something so indulgent about artichoke leaves dipped into rich glossy mayo. The often lengthy eating of them is one of the reasons I serve them at a dinner party. They are an excellent buffer if things are taking a little longer in the kitchen with the mains. Do not be put off by the idea of homemade mayonnaise, it really is simple. The trick is to take it slow. If you happen to curdle the egg or add too much oil too quickly, just crack another yolk into a clean bowl and slowly add the mixture back into the yolk.
Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca
This is an incredibly simple pasta dish that relies primarily on store cupboard ingredients. It is delicious with a subtle kick of heat and rich tomatoey salty sauce. As with most simple recipes, the quality of ingredients is key. Look for good quality anchovies, capers and anchovies if you can.
Rosemary, Vanilla-Baked Apricots With Whipped Yoghurt Cream
This is one of my favourite summer puddings. Apricots come alive when they’re baked and a hint of vanilla and rosemary work wonders in bringing out their flavour. Vanilla pods are not cheap, but they are worth it. I use them to flavour both the apricots and the yoghurt cream here and you could also add one to a jar of sugar post baking to make vanilla sugar. The whipped yoghurt cream is a lighter take on a traditional vanilla whipped cream. I find the slight tang the yogurt brings offsets the juicy sweetness of the apricots perfectly.