Artichokes have hearts but as they grow older their hearts turn into bottoms!
This stew can be extravagantly made with fresh artichokes if you can get them cheaply in season otherwise this dish becomes too expensive. But I've found artichoke bottoms in brine in large jars at my local Kurdish corner shop which taste pretty good. Frozen artichoke bottoms can also be found in Middle Eastern shops if you live in a city. I would count 3 artichoke bottoms per person if using fresh or more if using jarred or frozen. Fresh artichokes take up space in a saucepan and this is a rich 'stew' so you don't need too many. But you know your own appetite for artichokes I'm sure, so put in as many as you feel you'd like to eat.
Another ingredient you may not have tried is black lime which is often used in Persian cookery. It adds an intriguing smokey, charcoal, fermented note. Crumble it into any kind of stew or leave whole to slowly infuse into your pot of ingredients.
One more thing, if using jarred/canned/frozen artichokes, this recipe takes maximum half an hour to make.
Artichoke, black lime, dill and lemon stew recipe
400g jar of artichoke bottoms (drained) or 12 fresh artichokes, stem cut, top sliced off
1/2 lemon for the pot if using fresh.
Juice of 2 lemons
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 black lime, pounded into dust
2 preserved lemons, finely sliced
a handful of fresh dill, finely chopped
150ml of good olive oil
100ml raki (optional)
Sea salt to taste
Garnish with crumbled feta (optional)
or mint leaves, torn
If using fresh artichokes, cut off the stems and cut the top of the spiky thistle off. Prepare a large saucepan of salted boiling water, with half a lemon. Make sure you can fit all the artichokes in (you may need two pans) and that you have a lid for the pans. I also seal the pans by wrapping the lid in a clean tea towel. Boil for around ten to fifteen minutes longer if the artichokes aren't very fresh. However, do not over boil them. You want to be able to tug at a leaf and it comes off with just a little resistance, not too easily. If you were cooking them to use as a steamed artichoke starter then you would want the leaf to come off easily. But for a stew, you don't want the artichoke to turn into mush.
When they are par-boiled, remove the artichokes and leave them to drain, head facing downwards.
Then remove all the leaves and any thistle until you have the base.
(I ate the leaves as I went along!)
Using jarred/canned/frozen artichoke bottoms or prepped fresh ones, place them in a heavy bottomed large sauce pan. Add the lemon juice, garlic, black lime, the preserved lemon slices, the dill, the olive oil. Add the raki if using. Simmer for ten to fifteen minutes on a low heat.
Serve warm or cold as a meze or part of a main meal. Drizzle with more olive oil. Tastes even better the day after.