If you follow me on FB or Instagram, you’d probably have seen some photos of the lovely weekend trip to Çanakkale. I did a wine tasting, ate local specialities such as cheese helva (peynir halvasi), ice cream, and oğlak(kid), yeah!, which can be eaten only through March and April. I’ll dedicate a whole post on the trip later because I think what I saw and did there is worth a whole page and it wasn’t all about food this time. Also, April is extra special for that area because of the Battle of Gallipoli and Anzac Day. So today let’s just talk about food and sharing food.
Spring conjures up asparagus and artichoke. Do you remember I was eating lots of white asparagus in France? I sometimes see them in jars at Metro supermarket but I don’t buy them of course – strictly shop locally and find alternatives!
In Turkey, when you go to farmers’ markets these days, you see many guys trimming artichoke bottoms. The artichokes here are bigger and how they are cooked is also different. Most restaurants or home cooks cook them with peas and potatoes, though in the eastern part, they can be cooked stuffed with meat, but hardly in Istanbul.
The thing is that we, expats and tourists, don’t see them beyond the pea version, so one gets a bit tired of seeing the same thing over and over again, but sometimes the artichoke bottoms can taste so delicious when cooked with love and lots of home-grown herbs and peas because I know most restaurants use the frozen pea and carrot mix as in the photo above.
I made this the day before I was leaving for Çanakkale so that Mr.O could survive while I was away. How thoughtful of me! I care about what he eats as much as myself, and there is nothing wrong with cooking for my man and family if one enjoys it. I was dying to know how it was because I didn’t get to taste the dish, and he finally called me in the evening after eating it and said,
“This is the best artichoke I’ve ever eaten in my life.”
He’s pretty stingy with compliments, I mean, the best compliment he usually gives is “I like it.”, so I was very surprised to hear that from him. Before hitting the road with his parents and his cousin, I carefully prepared two nights’ food for him so that he could feel my presence during my absence, and to my surprise, he saved one artichoke so that I could taste it. I thought he would have eaten them all but he didn’t! How thoughtful of him! Love works both ways, right?
I care about you; you care about me. Can it be food-driven altruism? It might be a huge jump or totally irrelevant, but when you think about what cooking and sharing food takes, it might make some sense but it’s hard to explain unless you have cook’s blood pumping in your veins.
You can see many artichoke vendors at farmers’ markets, and whenever I see them, I feel sorry, looking at their cracked hands from trimming the monstrous vegetable, and also grateful that they save me from such a messy job. When I first tried to trim artichokes myself at home in my old days, I said to myself I’d never do it again, seeing most bits thrown out.
In Turkey, large artichoke bottoms are common and one can be sufficient for a light lunch when stuffed and sauced generously like my recipe, or an appetizer. As artichokes have their unique flavours, keeping the recipe and flavours simple is very important.
The stuffing in this recipe is a mixture of mushroom, spring onion, lemon zest and sunflower seeds for nutrition and texture, and then it’s topped with fresh goat cheese, called Büş, named after the French word bouche. I first steamed the artichokes in a pan until tender before baking them in the oven, and the liquid, which has the unique flavours of the artichoke, lemon and wine, smells and tastes so….hmm…’delicious’ doesn’t seem to sound appropriate, so let’s say addictive!
You can use brie type soft melting cheese instead of goat cheese, but I think goat cheese seems to work very well.
So this tangy and creamy self-saucing artichoke bottom recipe is a keeper for sure. Mr.O is already begging me to make some more soon, and I definitely will since they are plentiful.
Baked Mushroom-stuffed Artichoke Bottoms
with Goat Cheese
4 artichoke bottoms
2 spring onion, finely chopped
half package of mushrooms, diced
¼ cup sunflower seeds
4 slices of fresh goat cheese
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1 garlic clove
1 tsp lemon zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp semolina or bread crumb
sea salt and cracked black pepper
1/4 cup white wine(optional)
1. Put the artichoke bottoms in a pan with water, lemon juice and white wine, just a third of the way up the bottoms, and add half of lemon and 1 garlic clove and steam until they are tender for about 10-15 mins.
2. To make the stuffing, combine the chopped mushroom, spring onion, sunflower seeds, lemon zest, parsley and the egg, and season lightly with salt and pepper.
3. Transfer the artichoke bottoms into a baking dish and put the mixture on top of each and sprinkle a little semolina or bread crumb if using.
4. Mix whole grain mustard into the liquid and pour it into the baking dish.
4. Top them off with a slice of fresh goat cheese, drizzle olive oil generously all around and bake for 20 mins, and then brown the cheese a bit under the grill.