It’s June! All very exciting for lots of reasons but also means globe artichokes are back in season and gives me the chance to share this, one of my favourite Maltese recipes, something my Mum started to make for us more when we were a bit older. Maltese stuffed globe artichokes make the perfect starter to pasta or risotto. It’s also a really romantic thing to share as a light supper with a glass of wine. Due to the nature of this dish and the lovely messy factor of pulling apart and scooping off the filling of each leaf with your mouth, it makes a great dinner party centre piece. Simply, leave a few stuffed artichokes on a chopping board with some olive oil and let people tuck in.
The Maltese typically pull the artichoke’s leaves back and get the stuffing in every slot. Once cooked, they tear off each individual leaf which contains a mouthful of stuffing, with their teeth, eating the stuffing first and then biting into the lower quarter of the artichoke leaf to tear off the soft cooked artichoke ‘meat’ from the leaf. To serve you simply smother the cooked stuffed artichoke with lots of olive oil and sea salt and black pepper and use some sourdough bread to mop up the juices. Once you’ve eaten your way through each leaf, you’re left with the artichoke heart – a prize worth waiting for! This is found at the stem underneath the ‘flower’ and is around the size of a bulb of garlic.
Globe artichokes are available all year but are in season and at their best between June and November. These little beauties above were freshly picked from “The Hut” at Wiveton Hall Estate in North Norfolk, which has been a favourite haunt of ours for sometime now, with its gorgeous coffee shop, homemade cakes and walled garden.
Stuffed Maltese Artichokes (Qaqocc Mimli)
2 Medium sized globe artichokes
Three handfuls of breadcrumbs
2 cloves of garlic, grated
A handful of finely chopped parsley
Two small handfuls of pitted olives* chopped black or green (or both)
2 tablespoons of finely chopped capers
8 finely chopped anchovies
Half a teaspoon of chilli flakes (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper
*NB: The best sort of olives to use are those in olive oil, it won’t make the stuffing mixture bitter as it can be with olives in brine
1. Combine stuffing ingredients together with enough olive oil so it forms a thick paste like texture. Add sea salt and black pepper.
2. Wash and trim the artichokes, removing the old leaves at the bottom. Also cut the bottom of the stalk a little so the artichoke is flat and even and able to stand up without too much support (you don’t want it to fall over in the saucepan)
3. Now you can stuff the artichoke. You can freestyle and add anything really but I’ve stuck to a relatively traditional Maltese recipe (the chilli flakes are just a twist I like). You might need to loosen in between each leaf a little. Then press the mixture in between each artichoke leaf so that each left has it’s own small mouthful of mixture.
4. Then stand the artichokes in a saucepan – one large enough to cover the artichokes fully with a lid (making sure the lid will close properly). Place the artichokes upright in the saucepan and steam in two inches of water for 1 – 1.5 hours on a gentle simmer). 5. Make sure the water doesn’t cover the leaves or stuffing otherwise the stuffing will come out of the artichoke and float in the water. And likewise make sure you don’t run out of water(!!)
5. It’s ready when any given artichoke leaf will easily pull away from the stalk (start with one at the bottom)
6. Remove and sit on kitchen towel to absorb any excess water. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon and with warm bread.
In the below pic, I’ve served the artichoke with a Maltese inspired bruschetta of vine tomatoes, capers, spring onions, olives and broad beans, olive oil and sea salt and black pepper.