Its spring, the birds are chirping, the bees are buzzing and the snow is falling on the mountains. Hang on a sec, the last ones not right. Looking at the calendar, we're definitely supposed to be in spring, but the weather man decided that we all needed a little reminder of what winter used to feel like. Its not such a bad thing, before it gets too hot I can have the oven on for long periods of time and I can make all those hearty soups and stews I'll be longing for soon. Artichokes always remind me of cold days. Probably because when I was little, as a family we used to go collecting wild artichoke out and about, I remember it being cold and windy with my cheeks stingy from the chill factor. These days I'm not as adventurous and get my artichokes from the local green grocer. Since they are now in season, I thought I'd make my mums stuffed artichoke.
You can stuff the artichoke with anything you like, as long as there is enough egg in your stuffing to bind everything together. I guess you could convert this recipe into an entirely vegan or vegetarian friendly dish, with a few exclusions and alternatives. The sweet taste of the artichoke is hard to beat. I remember when I was a kid I would bring friends over to have dinner with us, sometimes artichokes would be on the menu. Most of my friends thought that it would taste horrible and it always took a bit of coxing to get them to try it, after a short lesson in how to actually eat the thing! Once they tried it, they were hooked.
Daz was exactly the same as my friends. I remember the first time he ever tried it, he had such a shocked and confused look on his face. He didn't want to make a fool of himself by eating the artichoke the wrong way, but on the other hand he wasn't exactly up for eating hard chewy fibrous leaf. So quietly while no one way watching I told him how to eat it. On the outer leaves of the artichoke, only the very inner center of the leaf is edible. You put the leaf between your teeth and scrap the soft sweet flesh off and eat it.
As you get closer to the heart of the artichoke, the entire leaf become edible. The actual heart is so soft and gooey its a delight, but it is an acquired taste. It seems to take up all the flavor and becomes very intense. Daz always leaves it aside. I can't convert him on everything!
My mum usually fills the artichoke with a meat mixture, weather it be pork, lamb or beef. I prefer pork. Its a shame that the brown on green is so ugly and these pictures wouldn't make it into a Donna Hay magazine, but sometimes the ugliest foods are the tastiest!
So heres the recipe:
Pork Stuffed Artichokes
Serves 4 people
4 globe artichoke
400 gram pork mince
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1-2 handfuls of dried bread crumbs
2-3 handfuls of Parmesan cheese (depending on how cheesy you want it)
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
1. First the artichoke needs to be prepared. Peel off the harder outside leaves and discard. Cut the stalk of relatively close to the base of the artichoke. Peel the stalk, this will be added to the pot to add extra flavour. Trim around the base to remove the bitter outer peal. Fan the leave open as far as possible without breaking the leaves off. Rinse the artichoke under cold water and leave upside down to drain.
2. To prepare the stuffing, all the ingredients into a bowl and mix together. Make sure to season the mixture well. The mixture should be the same consistency as a stiff meatball. If it is too wet add some extra dry breadcrumbs.
3. Take the artichoke and a small amount of stuffing. Push the stuffing into the space between the leaves. Continue to fill until most of the artichoke is filling. The heart of the artichoke will remain stuffing-less.
4. Find a pot, with a lid, that is barely big enough for the artichoke to fit in. They need to all be squeezed together, standing upright. This will take a little work, the fit must be very tight. This is extremely important as the mixture will shrink, and the artichoke will start to fall apart, so the support of its neighboring artichoke will keep it intact.
5. Add enough water to come halfway up the artichokes. Add the stalks to the pot, and lightly salt the water. The water will evaporate so only a small amount of salt is needed.
6. Put the lid on the pot and cook on medium-low for 45 minutes. You can tell if the artichokes are ready when you pull a lea and it comes away easily. You can also eat one of the leaves, if it is soft and not squeaky its done.
When I was cleaning the artichokes I found a baby artichoke disparately clinging to its mother. I couldn't bare separating them so I chucked it in the pot too. When everything was cooked I took it out and though, maybe I could eat it whole. So being the horrible person that I am, I ate the baby whole! Nom Nom Nom, baby back ribs!
After filling the artichokes I had a fair bit of stuffing left over. I may have mentioned before, theres nothing better than getting two dishes out of one. I often recycle left over mayonnaise or too much icing and I'm ashamed to say that sometimes the spin off dish tastes better than the original! What to do with all that tasty meat filling??? hmmm....I'll make meat balls!! I also had some crumb-less bread crust that I didn't want to feed to the birds. Attracting birds around our cat Romeo is not a good idea! **chirp chirp...meow....pounce! puuurrrrr** So I made little spindle meatballs, fried them off and sat them in little crust boats. I chowed the whole lot down with a squeeze of lemon. I might actually make these again, they were pretty tasty and perfect for a finger food. I will call them PORK BOATS!