Thursday, 2 February 2012

The Weird and Wonderful - Adventures with the Jerusalem Artichoke

The wonky Jerusalem Artichoke waiting to be peeled
The 'Britain in our Kitchen' Bible (Grown in Britain) told us specifically that it was the end of the season of the Jerusalem Artichoke. What? We did not even see a pack in the aisles of our local supermarket, where are they hiding? This was British seasonal food that we needed to find - and therefore should be available. Where we live, near London, apparently only Waitrose seems to stock them (we tried Tesco and Sainsbury's). 

To be honest you spend a lot of time looking for them everywhere, and all you get in the pack look like ... small wonky potatoes - or so it seems.And it is not obvious how you should cook this thing.  Does it even get peeled?  

Wikipedia tells us that this has nothing to do with Jerusalem, right... and that it is not a type of artichoke... - the plot thickens. At the end of the day, it just blames it on the French (at least their taste buds) ... 'The artichoke part of the Jerusalem artichoke's name comes from the taste of its edible tuber. Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer, sent the first samples of the plant to France, noting that its taste was similar to an artichoke'. 

So here you are it is not an artichoke that tastes like an artichoke, and basically this is what you need to expect, because this is what you are going to get. 

The way we cooked it is as follows, and if anyone else has some tips please send them over: peel it like a wonky potato, boil it like a wonky potato and mash it or make a gratin out of it... like a wonky potato. Except that it totally tastes like an artichoke. 
Our best recipe yet is the celeriac and Jerusalem gratin (like a Gratin Dauphinois, but using one layer of Celeriac slices and one of Jerusalem artichoke slices) - one word: WONDERFUL!

We tried to bake crisps out of it, it was nice but really shrank in the oven - so not quite there yet, but it would totally work!

PS: In French it is called Topinambour, and said like that Mrs Britain in our Kitchen has actually heard of it... Her French is clearly not as good as it used to be then!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Who needs risotto rice?

So of course rice is out of the question in our kitchen. To be fair, we did not eat a lot of it before, but every so often we cooked a risotto - it allowed us to get rid of some things in the fridge and be still really nice. We bought a pack of pearl barley during our first 'Britain in our Kitchen' shopping trip only on the basis that it was British - and that will work out what to do with it at some point.  

Picture via

So 2 'risottos' later (leek and bacon - delicious) using pearl barley in risottos is definitely a great substitute. Of course now that we googled it everyone has been talking about it, and there are many very good recipe online. We cook it like risotto rice, by adding gradually vegetable stock. And it reacts much like Risotto Rice and absorbs all the liquid. 

Just a note, it is really filling - much more than risotto, so it is probably good to go 3/4 of the rice proportions, unless you are starving of course!