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Thursday, 11 October 2012

Syrian Artichoke and Cheese Casserole

This is a recipe that I tested for the Gefiltefest cookbook. The book is a compilation of recipes from different Jewish chefs from around the world, and I was delighted to be asked to be involved with putting it together. I have written about Gefiltefest and my involvement with it before, in the Aubergines pouched in Miso post.

I think I drove the cookbook organisers a little bit crazy with my pickiness when it came to what recipes I would test – which is all a bit ridiculous seeing as my intention when I started this blog was to stretch myself with my cooking. Sorry about that guys - will be more ambitious in future, and will get over my fear of yeast!

Its funny because I never would have made this of my own volition, but I just love artichokes so much I knew that I needed to give it a go. I was a little hesitant as I usually avoid cooking with so much cheese because, well, so much cheese, and also on a practical level, it tends to split and get all oily and gross. Heston Blumenthal tackled this issue during his TV series ‘How to Cook Like Heston’. Of course I did buy 'Heston at Home' (couldn’t help myself), but haven’t attempted anything from it yet, for obvious reasons. Anyway, you know what? Despite all the so much cheese, and the simplicity of the dish – essentially it’s a big baked frittata/tortilla/Eggah – it was FANTASTIC, and everyone I made it for loved it too. So there.

This recipe is from Gil Marks. He is an award-winning writer, historian, rabbi, and chef, is a leading authority on culinary subjects and Jewish cuisine. His books include Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, Olive Trees and Honey, and The World of Jewish Cooking. I co-own Olive Trees and Honey 
(thanks to Alli), which is a lovely, vegetarian, kosher cookbook. His recipes give an interesting perspective on Sephardic cuisine especially, as I had previously only associated it with non-dairy dishes.

Gil writes:

“Artichokes are popular in various Mediterranean countries, where they are prepared in a wide variety of ways. Among my favorites, is this simple Syrian-Jewish dish. It is both a comfort food, yet capable of serving as an appetizer at parties.”

A note of artichokes: Frozen artichoke bottoms are not the easiest things to get hold of – but certainly so much easier than preparing the artichokes from fresh. I also feel that if you had whole globe artichokes, it would be a bit of a travesty to do anything with them other than eating them whole, leaf by leaf (heaven). After a little bit of research I found that I could buy the frozen bottoms in Yarden – a kosher supermarket in Golders Green. A bag cost about £6.50 and this recipe used about a third of a bag. Very useful if you want to make the stuffed artichokes in Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s new book Jerusalem, or just add them to a simple pasta dish, or whatever else you fancy.

*Update 23.01.13* I just discovered frozen artichoke bottoms in the Arabic supermarket on Willesden Green High Street (next to the bus stop by Dominos) for £1.89!!!

Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons (approx) olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced
8 - 9 quartered artichoke bottoms, thawed if frozen
6 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 cups (350 grams) grated Cheddar cheese, or similar.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 
(Gil specifies a teaspoon of salt, but this seemed like a little much for me with so much salty cheese).


Preheat the oven to 175 C. Grease a 2-litre casserole.
In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and fry until soft and translucent (5-10 mins). Add the artichokes and sauté until nearly tender (5-10 mins). Remove from the heat.
Combine the eggs, cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir in the artichokes.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared casserole. Bake until golden brown (35 to 40 minutes).

5.  Best served warm, also very good at room temperature. If you run a knife around the sides of the casserole, it will turn out onto a plate very nicely.


1. Reduce the eggs to 3. Combine 1 cup (145g) all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking powder, then stir in 1 cup/240 ml milk. Stir into the egg-cheese mixture.

2. Add 1 teaspoon (5 ml) dried oregano and pinch of red pepper.

3. Substitute 570g blanched chopped broccoli or spinach, excess water drained out.
4. Hannah, who is actually a little bit Syrian, said that you can also make it using some kind of cottage cheese/ ricotta instead of all the cheddar, making the whole thing a lot lighter. Presumably much more subtle a flavour though.

With foodie love and thanks to Gefiltefest for encouraging me in all things foodie and social action-y, for giving me this recipe, and letting me post it.


  1. One of the best , if richest things I have ever eaten!

    1. yay :) it is amazing how much of such a rich thing I managed to get through - one tiny piece at a time...