When people think of artichokes, they only ever think of globe artichokes. You know them, the big green leafy ones that are known as impossible to prepare (always going brown, fuzzy choke to remove and lots to trim away but you need to keep the right bits). Jerusalem artichokes are their lesser known, lesser used, easier to prepare and better tasting cousins (although technically they’re not actually related at all). Maybe I like them because they’re underdogs, they’re a bit funny looking – all knobbly and a fairly unattractive purpley colour (there are two types, gerard jerusalem artichokes are purple, the others are brown), they feel like the kind of vegetables people walk past in the shops and think, “too strange, too difficult, not for me”. Well, I think that just makes me love Jerusalem artichokes even more.
I first cooked jerusalem artichokes when I was helping to run a pop-up restaurant. We wanted something to serve with seared scallops that would be a little different, would be delicious, could be done in advance and crucially could be taught to a bunch of people who’d never cooked before in their lives but were going to be the chefs in the restaurant. In the end we settled on Jerusalem artichoke purée with some crispy pancetta and a little truffle. It was by far our most popular dish and people kept asking me what the vegetable was underneath the scallops – it was even more popular than the scallops themselves. I has such a great time running that restaurant – was one of those experiences that pushed my love of cooking into overdrive. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the jerusalem artichoke dish but I thought I’d share some photos of the other things we cooked!
Since that experience I’ve learnt just how versatile jerusalem artichokes are, boil them, smash them, crisp them up or fry them into jerusalem artichoke chips. They also make an amazing jerusalem artichoke soup – one I always order if I see it in a restaurant and I’m never disappointed.
Earlier this year we were in Germany visiting a dear friend and there were Jerusalem artichokes everywhere and we decided to thank them for letting us stay by cooking them dinner. Some olive oil crushed potatoes, Jerusalem artichoke purée, wild garlic and pollock (another underused ingredient – cod’s sustainable cousin). No-one had tried Jerusalem artichokes before and they all loved it so I felt I’d share a few tips and tricks on how to prepare it well. Though always remember, the same tricks about seasoning apply as they did for this broccoli soup. It goes with firm white fishes and shellfishes – think scallops, cod, lobster, monkfish, pollock or turbot. However, jerusalem artichoke is also versatile enough to complement charred smoky beef fillet or lamb rump (especially a more caramelised artichoke purée as I had at Tetsuya’s in Australia). In fact, I often like to replace mashed potatoes with jerusalem artichoke and serve it with a hearty lamb shank -sometimes I even smoke the jerusalem artichoke purée, a little more work but it is frankly divine. You can even make a risotto out of it, just like I did with this cauliflower risotto
The first task is peeling it, if you’re making crispy smashed jerusalem artichokes then the skin is the best bit but for a silky smooth purée you’re gonna need to lose those skins. This is most easily done by taking a large bowl of water with some lemon slices and submerging the artichokes entirely in the acidulated water. Then take each jerusalem artichoke out and peel whilst dunking back into the water periodically. If it’s too bumpy to peel, cut off the bumps and peel them individually. Once a piece is peeled, place it back in the water. This will stop anything getting brown and it keeps all the mess nice and localised. If you need to peel in advance, store them under water in the acidulated water in the fridge, jerusalem artichokes will keep like this for a few hours without browning. To cook, slice thinly and sweat with some onion in butter until very soft before puréeing with a little water/stock or milk/cream.
Now, I understand you can’t find Jerusalem artichokes in most shops and so you may think it takes a special trip to a farmer’s market. However, you can buy them online in the UK or you can get them from some of the larger supermarkets. The jerusalem artichoke season runs from Oct-Mar in the UK. For me, if even one person buys and cooks them or orders them in a restaurant, I’ll feel I’ve stuck up for this plucky, ugly unpopular but totally delicious vegetable.
Jerusalem artichoke purée or soup
- 500g Jerusalem artichoke peeled and sliced very thinly (if you’ve got a mandolin use one, otherwise time to practice those knife skills!) (don’t worry if they’re still a little wet)
- 1 sweet onion finely diced
- a good sized knob of butter
- The end of a lemon
- Lemon water for the peeling process
- Water, chicken stock, milk or cream – depending on the type of purée/soup you want. You can make a very thick purée without any liquid but I like about 50-100ml of chicken stock (I like to reduce it by about half first for a more intense flavour). For a velouté you would add cream/whole milk until it reaches the correct consistency
- Peel the jerusalem artichokes as described above and slice them very thinly.
- Place the butter and onions in a heavy bottomed large pot over a low-medium heat and sweat until slightly softened – 3-5 minutes. Season well with salt.
- Add the sliced Jerusalem artichokes, season well with salt and sweat (i.e., cook without colouring) for about 30-40 minutes until the artichokes are very soft. Make sure to stir them every few minutes so they don’t colour and cook evenly.
- Transfer to a blender (or use a stick blender) and purée very thoroughly. It will help to add a little liquid whilst blending. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and some black pepper. It may need a touch of lemon juice to increase the acidity.
- If you want to serve it as a soup then thin more with some reduced stock or hot milk/cream until it reaches the consistency you want. It will keep chilled for a week (longer if you don’t add milk or cream) and can be reheated over a low heat.
- It goes brilliantly with sweet fish/shellfish like scallops or monkfish/cod. However, it will also work exceptionally well with well caramelised beef fillet or lamb rump. In fact, a slightly thicker version can substitute for mashed potatoes and goes amazingly with lamb shank.
This method works brilliantly if you want a more intense and caramelised version – works especially well with lamb rump but can work with lots of flavours.
- As above, except instead of sweating the jerusalem artichokes over a low heat, you crank up the heat to medium-high and cook with the intention of carmelising it. Don’t burn it or it will go very bitter indeed. Finish as above but melt ~50g of butter into a beurre noisette and stir into the jerusalem artichoke purée to finish.
- The vegetable prep can be done ahead. As I always say, don’t bring a knife to a fire fight. Even the jerusalem artichokes can be peeled and prepped in advance and stored in lightly acidulated water for a few hours
- Once cooked and puréed the jerusalem artichoke purée will keep for a week in the fridge. Cover it with cling film so the cling film touches the purée – it will help keep it from discolouring.
- To reheat, add a splash of water (or if you used stock/milk/cream use those) to a pan. You genuinely only need about a tablespoon full. Heat that liquid gently and once warm add your purée. Stir whilst heating gently until it’s warmed all the way through. Food guidelines will tell you to only reheat it once, if you’re doing it at home you can do it a couple of times and no-one will get hurt I promise. What you don’t want to do is reheat and keep it warm for a long time, so if you’re re-heating then only re-heat just before serving and if there’s some left over get it straight back in the fridge. Make you you adjust seasoning, acidity and consistency when reheating as it can change in the fridge.
- It freezes really well if you’ve made it with stock/water, you thaw and then reheat it just as if it was from the fridge – it might need slightly more liquid as it will thicken over time.
- If you want to make a milk/cream based soup but you want to freeze it then you’re actually better off making a thick purée and freezing that. When you want to defrost and serve it simply heat some milk and cream in a pan and add your thawed purée. Stir and loosen as required with milk/cream/water.
- One final tip – if you want to freeze the jerusalem artichoke purée. I find all purées/soups like this freeze really well in freezer safe bags. You fill and seal it and then flatten it out. If you freeze it like that it thaws very quickly by submerging the bag in some warm water. Much faster and no mess!