Join The National and Table Tales on a culinary journey around the Middle East to savour the quintessential dishes that embody the spirit of Ramadan. From table staples to family favourites, this series of recipes – one for each day of Ramadan – pays homage to the holy month and the home cook alike.
The temperamental Greek god Zeus is said to have met, courted and been angered by a Greek girl named Cynara on one of his sojourns in the mortal world. He is said to have struck her with a lightning bolt, turning her into an artichoke and that, it is believed, is what gives the plant its Latin name – Cynara cardunculus.
Equally fascinating is the etymological journey of the word artichoke, which has its roots in Arabic. Native to the Mediterranean, the plant was called al kardurfa in Arab-occupied Spain, and from there turned into the Spanish alcachofa, the Italian articiocco and the English artichoke.
However you know it, the vegetable is a significant source of fibre, in addition to being loaded with vitamins C and K, and calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. Consequently, nutritionists credit artichoke with helping to reduce blood pressure and irritable bowel syndrome, and improving digestive and liver health – a good option, then, for a healthy iftar table.
This recipe from Turkey renders the potent but humble artichoke into a stuffed delicacy that is at once vibrant and mouth-watering. Recipe contributor Emel Mubarak says: “Zeytinyagli enginar is part of our mezze, served before the main meal. It makes a beautiful dish for a gathering and can be prepared well beforehand. It reminds me of spring in Istanbul, when the street vendors come out with their colourful plastic basins full of artichokes. I love to watch their technique and speed as they carve the vegetables, sparing us the hassle at home. And with Ramadan in spring this year, artichokes will be on many an iftar table.”
Emel Mubarak's zeytinyagli enginar – Turkish-style stuffed artichoke bottoms with olive oil
Serves 6 to 8
- 1/3 cup olive oil, divided
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 large potato, peeled and cubed small
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cubed small
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 8 artichoke bottoms (fresh, canned or frozen)
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- ¼ cup fresh dill, chopped
- Dill for garnish
- In a large pan, saute the onions until wilted in three tablespoons of the oil.
- Add the potatoes, carrots and peas and saute for three minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Place the artichoke bottoms in the pan, scooping the sauteed vegetables over them.
- Mix enough water to cover the artichokes, with lemon, the remaining olive oil, salt and sugar, and pour into the pan. Sprinkle the chopped dill over them.
- Turn the heat on high, bring the contents of the pan to a boil, then reduce to low and cover until the artichoke bottoms soften – about 20 to 25 minutes, depending on whether you use fresh or frozen.
- To serve, place the artichokes in a platter and scoop the vegetables into each one. Garnish with the extra dill and drizzle with olive oil.
This dish has been brought to you by Emel Mubarak and curated by international recipe hunter Hanan Sayed Worrell, author of Table Tales: The Global Nomad Cuisine of Abu Dhabi. The Table Tales concept celebrates the people and stories that give flavour to recipes of the Middle East.