Artichoke Pithivier

Artichoke, olive and preserved lemon ragout

Artichoke halves cooked gently in a tasty wine and cream reduction with olives and preserved lemons.

Traditionally a Pithivier is a French celebration cake for Twelfth Night.  An elaborately decorated  buttery  puff pastry encases a rich almond frangipani. Served warm with glacé fruits and sweet wine it is my idea of heaven. I have a number of recipes including one for a chocolate almond crème filling which I will share  with you in time for Christmas.

More recently the idea of encasing savoury and vegetable fillings has been  adopted  by restaurant chefs and it is quite commonplace to find such dishes as oxtail or game Pithivier on a menu. Some chefs add delicious insult to injury by encasing creamy gratin dauphinoise in rich butter puff paste!  

I developed this recipe  for the part two exams of my City and Guilds Diploma in Professional Cookery. We are talking some 15 years ago,  however the fusion of flavours remains modern and fresh. The filling is the prettiest shade of pale green, and the use of lemon thyme and preserved lemon adds a lightness of flavour that is lengthened and made more complex by the sage. The Pithivier is best served warm rather than piping hot, or cold as part of a Buffet or picnic table.  

 I use tinned artichoke hearts for ease, but do use your own home grown if you happen to have a profusion.

Artichoke Pithivier

 Ingredients:

Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 small onion, finely diced

1 large or two small  garlic cloves, finely diced or crushed

100ml dry white wine

200ml double cream

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon chopped fresh lemon thyme or  thyme

6 fresh sage leaves, chopped

1 x 390g artichoke hearts, drained and the hearts halved lengthways

100g pitted green olives, drained and the olives halved

1 preserved lemon or two slices of salted sliced lemons, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 egg

1 x 390 g pack ready rolled puff pastry

 Make the filling:

Put the olive oil and butter into a large frying pan and heat gently. When the butter is melted add the diced onion and the garlic and cook gently without colouring for about five minutes until the onion is soft and fragrant. Add the thyme, sage and the nutmeg and cook for a further minute.

Increase the heat to high and pour in the wine. Bubble fiercely until it is reduced by half.  Add the cream and bubble until it thickens to a coating consistency.

Stir in the halved artichoke hearts, the olives and the chopped preserved lemon, season with a good pinch of salt and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper. Cook gently for a few minutes until the artichokes are coated with the sauce and warm through.

Artichoke cream cooling

Spoon the Artichoke cream into a small bowl. Press down gently, cover and cool until set.

Spoon the filling into a small, 500-800ml capacity pudding basin or bowl. Press the mixture gently into the bowl and then set it aside to cool before covering and chilling for a few hours in the fridge to set.

Putting it together:

Break the egg into a small bowl and beat to loosen.

Unwrap the pastry keeping it on its paper.  You need to cut two circles from the pastry one of 18cm and one of 20cm in diameter so you may need to roll out the length of the pastry fractionally.

Lay the smaller circle of pastry onto a flat baking tray.

tip the Artichoke cream on to the smaller circle of puff pastry

Gently tip the chilled artichoke cream in the centre of the smaller pastry circles.

Remove the artichoke filling from the fridge and loosen the edges with a palette knife and then invert the bowl over the centre of the pastry disk allowing the filling to fall out gently in a mound.

Egg wash the edges of the pastry base. Carefully lay the larger pastry circle and over the top of the filling pressing the edges together around the base. In an ideal world there should be no folds or pleats in the pastry covering, however bought pastry is very stretchy so just do your best and don’t worry unduly (see below).

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Egg wash the entire Pithivier and then put it back into the fridge to set the pastry for about 20 minutes.  If you have time  you can repeat the egg wash and chilling one further time – this will enhance the gloss and colour of the finished Pithiviers.

When the pastry is cool and firm  decorate in the traditional manner. Scallop the edges by using a small sharp knife cut and cut waves (see above).

Cooking:

Preheat the oven to 200c/f 180/gas 6.  Bake the Pithivier for 40 minutes when it should be puffed and golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow it to cool for twenty minutes before serving warm or allow to completely cool and serve cold.

I like to serve it as part of a cold collation Buffet or Picnic. in the picture below it is served with Cracked Wheat Gazpacho Salad and Artichoke Roulades.

Artichokes in Puff pastry served with picnic salads

Artichoke Pithivier served with Aubergine Roulades and racked wheat salad.

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