Stuffed Artichokes (Ardishawki Mahshi)
This post is part of my Palestinian cooking series (which includes regional cuisines) following my trip to Nazareth.
Stuffed artichokes has been a standout home-cooked dish from our past couple trips to Nazareth. The practice of stuffing vegetables is common in Palestinian cuisine and across the region. In some of these dishes, the vegetables are simply topped with a filling of meat or vegetables (see the stuffed eggplant at the top of this blog post). Other dishes, however, are much more labour-intensive and require carving or hollowing out of each vegetable before they are eventually stuffed and cooked together. These types of dishes are typically reserved for special occasions or celebrations and, since they’re made in larger quantities, are sometimes prepared by a group of family or friends– making the prep an event in itself.
We had the fortune of enjoying not one, or two, but three different types of stuffed vegetables–artichokes (ardishawki mahshi), grape leaves (warak enab), and zucchini (kousa mahshi). For me, these types of dishes have become synonymous with Palestinian home cooking, and I was eager to attempt one of these dishes myself. Of the three vegetables, stuffed artichokes seemed the most approachable; fresh grape leaves are difficult to find at home, while hollowing out zucchini (particularly the small light-green variety that are common in Palestinian cuisine) takes considerable practice and skill.
This dish was prepared with fresh baby artichokes. Unlike large artichokes that are prepared by removing the centre “choke” before cooking, the centre of a baby artichoke is entirely edible. It’s important to note that most articles online about artichokes are referring to the larger variety since they’re commonly stuffed and baked as an Italian dish.
I had some difficulty finding fresh baby artichokes in local grocery stores. Since they’re a seasonal vegetable and may not be popular in some regions, I waited for them to become available over the summer months. If you’re unable to find fresh baby artichokes, it may be possible to find frozen artichoke ‘bottoms’ (ie. already trimmed and entirely edible) in Middle Eastern grocery stores. I haven’t tried the recipe with frozen artichokes, but I imagine it could be a suitable (and a less labour-intensive) alternative.
Stuffed Artichokes with beef and onion
16-20 baby artichokes
1 onion, finely diced
1 lb ground beef (or ground lamb)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup cheese, such as Parmesan, graded
3-4 potatoes (optional), peeled and cut into wedges (or, cored and ready to stuff with extra meat)
2 lemons, juiced
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Prepare the meat filling. In a skillet on medium-high heat, add 1 Tbsp of oil and fry the diced onion until soft. Then add ground beef (or lamb), 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Mix and sauté until the meat is fully cooked. Set aside.
Note: As a vegetarian option, the beef or lamb can be substituted with finely diced mushrooms.
Prepare the artichokes. Prepare a large bowl of water mixed with 1 Tbsp of lemon juice. When the artichokes are trimmed and uncooked they turn brown easily and should be kept floating in lemon-water while preparing the remainder of the artichokes.
The tough dark-green outer leaves of an artichoke are fibrous and inedible. By hand, peel and discard the dark-green layers until you reach the softer, light-green or yellow-white leaves– several layers may need to be removed. Also, the leaves turn dark-green towards the top of the artichokes and must be removed. With a knife, cut the artichokes width-wise about one-third from the top. The remaining portions should be the light-green or yellow-white leaves. Finally, trim the bottom of the stem and, with a knife or vegetable peeler, peel around the outside of the stem to reveal the soft, light portion. Remove the artichokes from the lemon-water and dry thoroughly. Fry the artichoke, top side down, in small amount in oil until browned. Set aside to begin stuffing the artichokes.
Stuff and cook the artichokes. Create some space in the centre of the artichokes by pushing soft portions in with your fingers or, if necessary, removing a small amount of the centre with a knife or vegetable peeler. Stuff the artichokes with cooked meat and onion. Place the stuffed artichokes upright in a large pot and top each with grated cheese, to help seal the meat. Add potato wedges or core the potatoes with a vegetable peeler and stuff them with any extra meat. Then add water to the large pot, about a quarter way up the artichokes. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for ~40 mins or until artichokes are soft and fully cooked.
Serve with rice and a small side of lemon juice to spoon over the stuffed artichokes.