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!

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