Table of contents       Next VegeTale   
Jerusalem artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes drawing

Despite their nondescript appearance, Jerusalem artichokes must rank as one of the most versatile vegetables - along with potatoes and tomatoes - available in a creative kitchen. They are small, just a few centimetres in length and girth, and an earthy ochre or pinkish colour. They look very much like a ginger root without the nodules. Their name is a misnomer: they have nothing at all to do with Jerusalem, the ancient city, nor are they related to the standard green globe artichoke, which is really the flower of a type of thistle.

The Jerusalem artichoke is a tuber, crispy when raw and the most delicate creamy substance when cooked. It has a nutty flavour and its creaminess makes it a versatile base for a range of culinary adventures.

I developed an appreciation for Jerusalem artichokes when I cooked a Jerusalem artichoke and truffle twice-baked soufflé for the first time. Ever since, they have been prominent in menus in the several restaurants I have worked in and some I have owned, including Restaurant Amusé. It is a pity that they are not used more commonly in the home kitchen.

Apart from their amazing taste, the Jerusalem artichoke excites me because of its unique versatility. In fact, I am convinced that I can create an entire menu for a lavish dinner party based on Jerusalem artichokes. And here it is.

Hadleigh's Jerusalem Artichoke fine dining menu

First, an all-purpose recipe for preparing artichokes as the base for many recipes.

Peel the artichokes and place in a brine solution of 20 g of salt in 1 litre of water. Bring to 90°C for 45 minutes. Cut each artichoke in half and scoop out the cooked flesh. It should be creamy in consistency with small crunchy pieces.

To prepare this dish in a home kitchen, instead of placing the artichokes in 90°C water for 45 minutes, simmer gently for eight minutes and then mash.

Apart from using this as the basis for many dishes, it is also a flexible spread that can be used for sandwiches, on crackers, as a dip or as a topping.

Mix basic artichoke mash with Philadelphia cream cheese and spread on blinis or small pancakes and top with slivers of smoked salmon or anything else that satisfies the palate and artistic soul.

This is based on a classic French soup - soupe aux topinambours. It is a viscous, starchy, nutty soup that is flavoured with dill, garlic and chives. It is best served with brioche croutons.

Scrub the skin of the artichoke and place on an oiled Weber grill. Keep turning until the skin is black. Cut in half, spoon out the flesh and serve with a sharp salty cheese like parmesan.

Here artichokes are served as a side dish. Prepare the artichokes as in the 'all-purpose' recipe above. Melt the butter and cook until brown and nutty. Stir into the cooked artichokes and serve warm.

Make a crème anglaise with cream, milk, eggs, sugar and the artichoke puree. Place in an ice-cream machine until ready. Serve with carbonated mandarin segments and crispy saltbush leaves.

And then there is lunch
Pickled Jerusalem artichokes can accompany cold meats such as pastrami, beef or lamb and fennel salad for a picnic lunch.

Pickled Jerusalem artichokes
      1 kg Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into .5 cm slices
      250 ml balsamic
      65 ml soy sauce
      1 clove garlic
      2 or 3 shallots
      1 bay leaf
      Several stalks of thyme

Place all ingredients, except the artichokes, into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Leave to infuse overnight then strain. Bring back to the boil and add the artichokes. Simmer for two minutes then cool.

Hadleigh Troy