Baked creamy stuffed artichokes
10-12 medium sized fresh artichokes
250 gm precooked minced beef
1/2 cup leek heads (diced)
1.5 litres prepared light béchamel sauce
300 gm shredded mozzarella, divided (for stuffing and sprinkling)
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
Juice of 5 lemons (retain squeezed halves)
A handful of salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp butter
Salt + pepper + 7 spices + grated nutmeg
To prepare artichokes: In a wide, large and deep cooking pan, with a lid to cover, add tap water to halfway fill up the pan, all-purpose flour, juice of five lemons, with retained squeezed halves and a handful of salt. Dissolve well until flour is no more lumpy. Cover pan and bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, lest flour sticks at the bottom. Remove away from heat. Meanwhile, snip off artichoke leaves; leaving the white tips intact. With a tiny spoon, scoop the inside feathers of the heart centres. Trim the woody outer parts around the hearts, by means of a sharp tiny kitchen knife. Immerse each prepared artichoke into already boiled flour and lemon water mixture and cover back; stirring water with each addition. When quantity is finished, bring back water mixture to the boil, with trimmed artichokes immersed in; removing pan away from heat once brought to the boil. Remove them out immediately, by means of a slotted spatula, to stop the cooking process. Do not rinse them. We want the artichokes only al dente. Cover artichokes. Discard waters. Heat a small cooking pan on high. Add oil and butter. Lower heat to medium. Stir in prepared leek until translucent. Add seasoning. Stir until fragrant. Add cooked beef mince. Stir in half the amount of shredded mozzarella, to combine and heat through the beef mince. Pour an amount of hot béchamel sauce; enough to bind and integrate well with beef and leek. Remove from heat and leave aside to slightly cool. Stuff each artichoke with an amount of minced beef and béchamel mixture, then place on to an ovenproof dish; in one layer. When all the quantity is stuffed and layered, pour remaining hot béchamel sauce gently from the sides of the dish; enough to completely cover the top. Sprinkle remaining amount of mozzarella evenly on top of béchamel. Bake, uncovered, in a preheated oven of 180 to 200 degrees C; until top is golden. Remove from oven. Allow to slightly cool before serving. Serve aside of grilled meat or poultry and a rich green salad.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 10 March, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.