Currabinny Cooks: Exploring the versatility of Jerusalem artichokes

Currabinny Cooks: Exploring the versatility of Jerusalem artichokes

They have absolutely nothing really to do with Jerusalem or indeed with any type of artichoke, so what exactly are these curious little tubers?

Jerusalem artichokes are in fact a type of sunflower whose earthbound tubers can be dug up and eaten like any root vegetable. They have a unique flavour which is a little bit similar to artichoke, which is probably how they got their name.

They are also curiously sweet and nutty which makes them a great ingredient to use over the cold months of winter to add contrast to hearty roasts and as a break from the usual parsnips, potatoes and swedes.

Jerusalem artichokes are also incredibly versatile and can be roasted, boiled, steamed, grilled, mashed, puréed, fried or even eaten raw. Their texture is wonderfully crunchy when raw and then silky smooth when boiled and puréed. They probably make the smoothest, most velvety and silkiest mash compared with the usual root vegetables.

It may be a little remiss to wax lyrical about Jerusalem artichokes without briefly mentioning that they have an apparent dark side. This dark side puts a lot of people off indulging in them but in reality, you would have to consume quite a lot of them to feel any side effects.

The troublesome reputation has their sweet flavour to blame. They contain a carbohydrate called inulin which is similar to fructose and makes them have an underlying sweet flavour, unfortunately, inulin is not very easy for the human body to digest so some mild discomfort may result in overeating.

We have never fallen victim to any of these symptoms so can only advise to eat in general moderation as a precaution.

Jerusalem artichokes are an absolutely fantastic alternative when you need a break from the heavier root vegetables.

Admittedly they can be a little hard to find as most supermarkets wont include them. Most good greengrocers will have them in when they are in season from October to March. Look out for medium-size tubers, which aren’t too gnarly and are very firm. Any that are soft are only fit for the compost.

The recipes here hopefully show the versatility Jerusalem artichokes have and the wide-ranging ways they can be cooked and eaten.

Jerusalem artichoke Soup with Walnut and Rosemary Crumble

This soup is an ode to the natural silkiness of Jerusalem artichokes, needing nothing more than water, cream and a little seasoning. There isn’t a more pleasingly simple recipe for something which feels so luxuriant. The curiously unique flavour of Jerusalem artichoke is all these soup needs but the rosemary and walnut crumble pairs perfectly and adds a wonderful crunchy texture.

Method:

1kg of Jerusalem artichokes

200ml fresh cream

30g cream flour

30g butter

Sea salt

Black pepper

1 sprig of rosemary

1 tbsp of sugar

Ingredients:

Prepare the Jerusalem artichokes by peeling them and placing them in a medium pot, cover with cold water and season with a good pinch of sea salt. Bring to the boil and then simmer for around 20 minutes.

Turn the heat off and then blitz the artichokes and water using a stick blender until very smooth. Stir in the fresh cream and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oven to 160C.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and scatter the walnuts onit.

Finely chop the leaves from the sprig of rosemary and sprinkle them over the walnuts along with the flour and sugar. Melt the butter and drizzle it over everything and place in the oven for 15 minutes.

Serve the soup in bowls with a little of the walnut crumble sprinkled on top.

Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke with Salsa Verde

Currabinny Cooks: Exploring the versatility of Jerusalem artichokes

There is a lot of leeway with a sauce like salsa verde. It definitely has to be green or else what would be the point?

It also must have a good amount of acidity in the form of vinegar, lemon juice and the addition of sharp, salty anchovies and or capers. Good extra virgin olive oil is advised and a little mustard is a pretty much standard. Outside of this there really is a lot to play around with.

The main thing to consider is the green you are going to use. This will usually involve one or two herbs like parsley, basil, mint or tarragon, although you could throw in kale, rocket, sorrel, baby spinach or even a nice green seaweed like wakame.

In the winter months with the general absence of basil, we like to keep it simple with just one herb in the form of lots of lovely parsley. We love a good garlic kick so we put three cloves into this salsa verde but you can always put less if you wish.

Being very green is an important aspect of any salsa verde so we like to make ours in a large pestle and mortar rather than a food processor. The food processor may warm up the sauce and the greenness of the herbs may be dulled. The pestle and mortar will keep everything nice and green and fresh.

Ingredients:

1kg of Jerusalem artichokes

60ml extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and cracked black pepper

For the Salsa Verde:

A large bunch of Parsley (50-60g)

3 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp of red wine vinegar

2 tbsp of capers

1 tsp of dijon mustard

120-150ml extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp of red pepper flakes

Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 220C.

Method:

Make the salsa first as this can be done ahead and keeps well in the fridge.

Crush the garlic cloves into a paste and place in a large pestle and mortar along with the parsley (leaves only), capers, mustard, red pepper flakes and lemon juice.

Crush and grind the ingredients until you get a paste, add the red wine vinegar in a slow stream while you continue to mash and then transfer this mixture to a bowl or jar where you can add the olive oil which you can stir in slowly with a fork until everything is well combined and you have a nice runny green sauce.

Taste for seasoning, it shouldn’t need any salt but if it does just a small pinch should do. A little more lemon juice can also be added if needed.

Scrub the Jerusalem artichokes under cold running water and then cut lengthways in half. Dry them off and toss them in the olive oil and spread out on a lined baking sheet. Season well with salt and pepper.

Roast the Jerusalem artichokes, tossing halfway through for around 25 - 30 minutes until soft and starting to curl in on the cut edges.

Serve the Jerusalem artichokes on a nice serving platter with a good healthy drizzle of salsa verde poured over.

Rocket Salad with Shaved Jerusalem artichoke and Orange

Currabinny Cooks: Exploring the versatility of Jerusalem artichokes

They might not seem like something you would eat uncooked, but Jerusalem artichokes have a wonderfully, sweet, nutty, crunchy quality not unlike mild radishes or raw chestnuts. Scrub the knobbly skin well before using them. It is better for this recipe if you don’t peel the skin off.

The flavours for this salad, although very simple, are all punchy and warming which are great qualities to have in a winter salad.

Ingredients:

400g Jerusalem artichokes

150g of Rocket

1 tbsp of dijon mustard

5 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp of cider vinegar

2 tbsp of orange juice

Zest of 1 orange

80g of parmesan cheese, shaved

Cracked black pepper

Method:

Scrub the artichokes well under cold water until perfectly clean. Using a very sharp knife or even a vegetable peeler, slice the artichokes into thin shavings.

Clean the rocket and place in a nice big salad bowl mixed in together with the artichoke shavings.

Make the dressing by whisking the orange juice, cider vinegar and mustard together in a small bowl and gradually whisk in the olive oil.

Drizzle the dressing over the salad and top with shavings of the parmesan, orange zest and cracked black pepper.

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