Alcachofas rellenas or stuffed artichokes are representative of the wide variety of vegetable dishes and tapas, part of the wonderful Mediterranean diet.
In this recipe artichokes are very simply cooked: peeled, boiled in water, emptied and stuffed with a mixture of garlic, onion and Serrano ham or anything else that the cook fancies, a dusting of garlicky bread crumbs and maybe some herbs. And into the oven to be lightly grilled.
Artichokes are mostly grown in the Mediterranean regions, from Catalonia down to Andalusia, where the climate is mild and warm and the humidity levels and the light are just right to guarantee good quality specimens. Fresh artichokes are available from as early as October-November, for the early crops, and up to the end of May. There are some varieties that allow us to enjoy this vegetable from April to November, but they’re not easily found in food markets.
Getting artichokes ready for cooking is a little time-consuming, but well worth the effort. They darken once the hard outer leaves are removed so working quickly is key, as well as having a bowl of cold water with parsley leaves and a splash of lemon juice in which to dip them once clean. Alternatively, artichokes can be boiled partially cleaned to be finished later, just like we have done. This is our favourite way of handling them!
- 8 artichokes, fresh
- 1 cup (250ml) water
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
- ½ onion, peeled and finely chopped
- ½ cup (100g) Serrano ham, diced
- 2 tbsp (20g) bread crumbs
- 1 tsp (5g) garlic salt
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Remove the outer leaves of the artichokes and clear the stem of any leaves it might have.
- Put the artichokes in a pressure cooker, add the water, some salt and place on medium-high heat.
- Cook for 4 minutes from the moment the safety valve rises.
- Remove from the heat and let off the steam before opening the pressure cooker.
- Drain the cooked artichockes by placing them, upside down, on a plate covered with kitchen paper.
- Meanwhile, heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan and sautée the garlic and the onion until wilted. Add the ham, stir and cook for 5 minutes on low heat. Reserve.
- Cut off the stems of the artichokes as well as the tops and remove the inner leaves to make room for the stuffing. Do not throw away these parts; they can be added to a vegetable stock together with other vegetables and make a wonderful vegetables soup.
- Mix the bread crumbs and the garlic salt. Fill the artichokes with the stuffing and cover each one with a teaspoon of the mixture.
- Place the artichokes in an oven dish, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil and grill until they turn golden.
- Serve hot or cold.
Tips for perfect alcachofas rellenas or stuffed artichokes
- Good quality artichokes are paramount in such simple recipe. Use the best artichokes you can find as they are the star of this tapa. Do not risk its success by chosing poor quality specimens.
- Frozen artichokes are usable, but their texture and consistency will be a little different and their taste too. Use them only if you have no other option available.
- The stuffing can be adjusted to the cook and guests taste. Serrano ham is a classic choice, but a mixture of vegetables and boiled egg works wonderfully too, amongst other options. Your imagination is the limit.
- As always, we strongly advise to use a good quality Spanish virgin olive oil if you can get hold of it. This recipe calls for a tiny drizzle, but the oil flavor will be apparent and will give it a very special kick.
Have alcachofas rellenas or stuffed artichokes warm, straight out of the oven, or cold and cut in half so you can pick them with your fingers. Accompany them with a glass of good chilled Spanish white wine and be prepared to discover what the Mediterranean tastes like.