Recipe: Enginar Dolmasi – Turkish Stuffed Artichoke
Over the last century, settlers in the UK, from around the world as far as India and China, to places closer to home such as Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, have had a huge influence in shaping British culture and cuisine. Now most towns will have at least one international deli or shop stocking unusual ingredients and products you may have only tasted on holiday. There are cookery programmes aplenty, books galore and magazines all showing us how to make tagines, curries and bake bread. We have become a nation of cooks, abreast with a wealth of culinary knowledge that a lifetime of travelling couldn’t provide.
As a child of immigrant parents, living in a western world surrounded by a rich cultural tapestry of diversity, particularly in my area of East London, with an eclectic mix of friends and a very noisy, somewhat animated Turkish family, it’s no wonder my sisters and I all learned to appreciate the culinary wisdom bestowed on us by our dear mother. This was an ample blend of dishes, all stored in her head, learned from her mother before her, made with ingredients brought back from the homeland, usually smuggled in our suitcase after an annual trip there in the summer. This included the obligatory stuffed something, otherwise known as Dolma. From vegetables, to fish and meat, there’s nothing that escaped the beady eye of a half decent Turkish cook. We always marvelled at my mum’s stuffed vine leaves, perched around the dinner table, all participating in this traditional ritual of rolling the leaves. With the leftover stuffing mix, we’d then look for anything else in the fridge we could stuff, such as potatoes and if available, luscious green artichokes. My mum always bought artichokes when she could, as they were pretty commonplace in countries such as Turkey and Cyprus, due to the hot weather climate and great soil. Settling in the UK, my mum made sure to find a greengrocer that would supply her with these beauties, of the globe variety. Our stuffing was usually a blend of rice and lamb mince, spiced with cinnamon and blended with tomato and parsley.
Here you’ll find my mum’s version of her beloved stuff artichoke, otherwise known as Enginar Dolma. I’ve translated it in to proper metric measures, as of course, my mum only really did a palm full of this and a half a cup of that, which I’m not sure would have worked so well for those that need grams! I’ve also given you a vegetarian version using only rice, and is equally as tasty. Enjoy the recipe and do get in touch if you’d like to know more about Turkish/Eastern Mediterranean food and how to cook like a Turk.
You will need (serves up to 8):
- 4 globe artichokes
- 500g lamb minced meat, use a lean version of about 5% fat
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- small bunch parsley, finely chopped
- 2 medium sized, vine ripened tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and finely chopped (you could use a can if need be)
- some butter or olive oil
- approx. 150g rice, American long grain is good
- juice of 1 lemon
- 75g tomato paste, or try sweet red pepper paste or Harrissa for a spicy kick
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- salt and pepper to taste
- Prepare the artichokes: it’s probably a good idea to wear disposable gloves for this as the artichokes have a tendency to dye your hands a slight black tinge! Cupping each artichoke in one hand, or holding it by it’s stalk if it still has one intact, pull the leaves out of the centre. Do this carefully as you don’t want to pull out all the leaves. Just the first 2-3 rows around the middle. Get your hands in there, and start to the pull the other leaves aside, to open up the middle. Now peer in and you’ll see that there is a bit in the centre that almost looks ‘furry’, with sticking up soft bits. This is on top of the heart, which you need to keep in place. Using a spoon, scrape away this ‘furry’ stuff to reveal the heart underneath. Keep scraping the spoon until you’ve rid the artichoke of all the ‘furry’ bits. Do this to all 4 artichokes then lightly salt each one and set aside.
- Make up your filling for the artichokes by combining the mince and all of the other ingredients including a little salt and pepper, in a bowl. Make sure to knead the mixture well. You should have a very slightly wet consistency, maybe sloppy is a good term here. If the mixture seems more like burger mix, add a little cold vegetable stock.
- Make sure to cut off as much of the stalk of the artichoke as possible, so the artichoke stands up when placed in a cooking pot.
- You will need a large enough cooking pot to house the 4 artichokes in a circle, next to each other. Don’t worry if they’re touching, this makes sure they don’t topple over.
- Give the artichokes a quick rinse under cold water and pat dry. Drizzle the inside with a little olive oil and sprinkle of salt. Stuff each one with the mince mixture. Thoroughly fill each one, using up all of the mixture.
- Drizzle some olive oil in the cooking pot and stand the artichokes together. Pour some vegetable stock (or chicken stock) around the artichokes in the pot, to fill up to half way.
- Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place over a medium heat, bringing to the boil. Turn down and allow to simmer for up to 45 minutes, until the artichokes have softened, the leaves are coming away but still intact, the mince is cooked and the rice has puffed up.
- Serve with plenty of Turkish or Greek yogurt.
Tip: Make sure to use good, firm artichokes that are lush green and fresh.
Vegetarian stuffing version:
- Approximately 350g long grain or Basmati rice
- 15ml Olive oil to 30ml Sunflower oil
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 large beef tomato, skinned, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh mint leaves, finely chopped (or 2-3 tsp dried mint)
- 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Approx. 100ml of hot water (this could be stock if you like extra flavour)
Follow the same instructions as above, making sure to mix all of the rice mixture thoroughly before stuffing the artichokes. Cook as per above.
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