Coffee aioli, with artichokes and jamon

Good things come from a little bit of effort.

It’s a lesson easily learned. Slack off,  cut corners and the result might be ok- passable even.  But you won’t have that shining seam of satisfaction that runs from the tip of your head right down to your second toe. That feeling only comes from putting in some hard yards. 

It’s elbow grease that explains why some people I know are very proud to show off  this most beautiful house.

(which besides being environmentally sensitive and artful is located around the corner from the best coffee in Sydney). If anyone’s in the market for a stunning house in one of the best parts of Sydney- do go and buy it.

I’m in awe of the long days and hard nights they’ve spent building and designing it together. It’s a perfect marriage; of his skill and her taste.

It’s that sort of work that calls for satisfied popping of champagne corks. 

It’s a long bow, but the same equation of effort in and rewards reaped applies to this starter.

All it takes is three core elements- but you can’t cut corners on any of them.

Firstly; get the best jamon you can afford. Don’t go crazy- some of that ham can get into the silly money stakes (acorn fed pigs not coming cheap). But the better the jamon you wrap around your grissini, the better the result.

Secondly; cook your artichoke yourself.  It involves nothing more than lopping off some of the stem, hacking  off a little of the top to help the leaves open up and then steaming/boiling it for 25 minutes or so in a big pot with hot water, half a lemon and a bay leaf. It’s done when the leaves at the base pull away from the stem. There’s something languidly satisfying about slowly demolishing your table’s centrepiece; bit by bit dunking the leaves into a smokey aioli and dragging them across your lower teeth until you’ve harvested some sweet flesh.

And then there’s the coffee aioli. You should make it yourself. Not just because mayonnaise like this tastes much better than any that you could get from a jar, but because  you’ll be able to give yourself a smiling pat  after convincing an egg yolk that it really can swallow 125 ml of oil.  

A few other notes. The garlic in the aioli needs to be freshly grated – no sad pebbles from a jar. The espresso needs to be made with love and care- because you’re only going to add two tablespoons of the crema from the top.

And while this may sound like a wild combination;  it works. The coffee gives a mysteriously earthy punch to the aioli. But what you can’t scrimp on is the salt. A generous pinch really makes it sing and allows the coffee to dance about; masquerading as anchovies and other mysterious elements.

The only thing you shouldn’t do yourself, is transfer the espresso over to the carpet where the light is best, to try and take a photo.

Because you might spill it.

Then you will try and try and try, with elbow grease and maybe a few tears to get that stain out of the cream rug. Except no amount of effort is going to do that. And there’s nothing satisfying about realising that at all.

But that’s a story for another day.

Luckily this combination of artichokes, aioli and jamon is perfect with cava, champagne and prosecco.

And hopefully after a few glasses of bubbles, you might stop talking about whether you’ll ever get the bond for the flat back, and start congratulating yourself for making what is a a truly delicious starter.

Artichokes and jamon grissini with coffee aioli

Serves 4 as part of a sharing plate starter

1 bowl. 1 whisk. 1 large saucepan. 1 sharp knife.

Shopping/ foraging

1 egg yolk
100 ml mild olive oil (or 50 ml of olive oil and 50 ml of vegetable oil)
3 small garlic cloves
2 tablespoons of espresso
Good pinch of salt

150 grams of good quality jamon
3 grissini per person

1 large artichoke
1 bay leaf
1/2 lemon
Hot water to cover

Here’s how we roll

1. To cook the artichoke, first cut off top inch where the leaves are tightly bunched, like a bud. Also trim the stem to just an inch. If the leaves are particularly spiky, you can trim them too (or just be careful while you eat it not to stab yourself).

2. Put the artichoke in a large pot and cover 3/4 of the way up with hot water. Add the bay leaf and half the lemon. Bring the water to the boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 25 to 45 minutes-  until you can easily pull the outer leaves off.

3. Assemble the grissini by snapping them in half and  wrapping strips of jamon around the broken ends.

4. Make the aioli. Place a wet tea towel under a clean bowl (this will help make the bowl more stable). Whisk the egg yolk for 30 seconds to help get some air into it.

5. Very slowly trickle a small amount of olive oil down the side of the bowl. Whisk until it is absorbed. Do this again. And again and again. Do not pour freely until you have a good, thick and glossy looking mayonnaise. If you’ve split the mayonnaise and it won’t take the oil, don’t throw out what you have. Just get a fresh bowl and crack another egg yolk into it. Now trickle the oil/egg mixture in, bit by bit. When that has turned into a mayonnaise, add the remaining oil.

5. When you’re satisfied with your mayonnaise, add the garlic and coffee. Stir. Then season generously with salt. Taste. If you think it needs more, add more.

6. Eat with the grissini, jamon and artichoke leaves. Find something to celebrate.

  1. Very unique – never heard of a garlic coffee combo. The coffee would help cut through the garlic breath:)

  2. Coffee aioli is completely new to me, but all the other flavours are gorgeous and I trust your taste so think I'll have to give it a go! Artichokes are a little bit fiddly to cook yourself but 100% worth it. Great recipe, it's making me hungry 🙂

  3. Coffee aioli is a new one– I am intrigued and excited to try. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I'm very intrigued by this flavour combination. It's certainly a new one on me! Thanks for the inspiration

  5. Really, a stunning meal all around. I am so intrigued by that amazing sounding coffee aioli I know I will be making it soon. (And that house — wow! Gorgeous.)

  6. This is such a tremendously inventive idea! I've never cooked with fresh artichokes, having grown up on my mum's marinated (from the can) version. Which was insanely delicious, but I reckon this would be too 🙂

  7. That's a beautiful house!! But you're so right- slacking off just doesn't create the same satisfying results! I love the sound of the coffee aioli!!

  8. coffee mayo.. interesting combo!

    if you are heading to avalon you HAVE to visit 'the healthy chef'

    i also did a small post on it not long ago on my blog :O)

  9. I would love to live next to a good coffee place but I don't think I can afford to live in such a beautiful house in Sydney :p

    Using coffee to make aioli is such an innovative and adventure idea! Who says that you need to live near a good coffee place to enjoy good coffee?

  10. artichokes are one of those things that I never dared tackling just because it seems like too much work hehe. great idea on the coffee aioli!

  11. Coffee aioli is completely new to me.Got to try this just to find out the taste.

  12. The sweet bitter earthiness of coffee would be great with the artichokes, great idea! Hope the rug comes good- at least it wasn't red wine 🙂

  13. I adore the idea of coffee aioli. My husband is an aioli freak and can eat bowls of it. I can't wait to try this. I promise I will avoid carrying the espresso over my carpet, although I do have kids so why even worry anymore about my once-cream colored couch and the rest?

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