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Stuffed Artichokes (Qaqocc Mimli)

Food

Today our Art Director Annie Portelli and her Mum Carmen are back to share another of their family favorites: Stuffed Artichokes, or, as the dish is known in Malta, ‘Qaqocc Mimli’.

One of Annie’s favourite things to do when she goes to visit her parents on a Sunday is to sit at the kitchen bench and watch her Mum effortlessly whipping together an array of food, while they debrief about their weeks. At some point in the afternoon, her Dad, Peter, will proudly emerge from the garden with an assortment of produce, all scooped up in the base of his flannelette shirt. In no time, Carmen will have magically transformed these fresh pickings into a delicious creation, just like this one below!

13th June, 2017
Annie and Carmen Portelli
Tuesday 13th June 2017

Qaqocc Mimli (pronounced ‘A-Ouche’) translates to ‘stuffed artichoke’ and has always been one of my favourite Maltese recipes! Despite its strange appearance, I still hold a great fondness for this recipe, mainly because it’s only in season for a couple of months each year, so it’s a real treat! During these months, I can be sure that when I enter our family kitchen on a Sunday afternoon, there will be rattling pot on the stove with five or so artichokes stuffed and snuggled up inside steaming away, ready to be picked at all afternoon by anyone passing through.

Most artichoke recipes start by plucking and disposing the leaves of artichoke to hero the heart of the vegetable. However, if you’re familiar with Maltese culture, you’ll know that the saying ‘waste not, want not’ is ingrained into almost everything we know, especially food. We use the WHOLE artichoke in this recipe, even the forbidden stem!

ingredients
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Fresh ingredients for this tasty dish. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins. Styling Assistant – Natalie Turnbull.

pot
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Carmen pops a small potato in between the tightly snuggled artichokes, to keep them upright in the pot whilst they steam. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins. Styling Assistant – Natalie Turnbull.

the dish
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Stuffed Artichokes, or as the dish is known in Malta, ‘Qaqocc Mimli’. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins. Styling Assistant – Natalie Turnbull.

Ingredients

  • 4 artichokes
  • 3 Tbsp small capers
  • 1 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mint, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup olives, pitted and chopped (we use a mix of green and black)
  • 2 potatoes, peeled
  • 3 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 8 Tbsp red win vinegar
  • 8 Tbsp good quality olive oil
  • 8 Tbsp white vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Start by cutting off the stalks off the artichokes – don’t throw them out, you’ll be using them soon!

Soak the artichokes heads in water for 30 minutes. While the heads are soaking, you can prepare the stuffing. Start with the stalks of the artichokes by peeling off the skin and dicing them finely (very important to peel the skin off as it’s very bitter). Combine your vegetables and herbs into a bowl then stir through a drizzle of white and red wine vinegar and olive oil. Finally season with some salt and pepper.

Once your artichoke heads have finished soaking, beat them a couple times facing downwards onto a hard surface to loosen the leaves. Use your hands to spread the leaves back to make enough room to stuff every nook and cranny with your delicious filling. (I use a teaspoon to help get the stuffing deep down into the heart of the artichoke. You ideally want each leaf to have its own little scoop of the stuffing.)

Next, place the artichokes into a pot, with the artichokes side by side upright. To keep the artichokes upright, place the potatoes (whole or halved – keep them chunky) among the standing artichokes to prevent them from moving around. Once you’ve nestled everything into your pot nicely, pour the remaining white and red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, and then top up with water. This water is only to steam the artichokes, so only fill the pot to one third, keeping the majority of the artichokes above water.

Cover with a lid, and let them simmer for one-and-a-half hours, or until leaves can easily be plucked out. Keep checking on the water to make sure the artichokes don’t dry out, and top up if necessary.

To serve, place artichokes on a platter for a lovely share starter, or have one all to yourself! We usually serve with a dipping bowl of vinegar for extra flavour! And also don’t forget to have a scraps bowl ready for the used leaves.

TIP: If you’re wondering how on earth to eat it… simply pluck out a leaf from the head, place it flesh-side down into your mouth holding onto the top/hard end with your fingers. Then use your bottom teeth to pull and scrape away the delicious flesh from the inside of the leaf from top to bottom. As you work your way from the outside of the artichoke inwards, the leaves get softer and tastier until you reach the real hero of this dish – the tender heart. YUM!

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