It is that time of year again in which this hardy perennial has begun to show its face again. The supermarkets are beginning to stock them, but those of you who look to search them out have, like me, been munching on them since the end of November. The odd thing about this vegetable is it looks like a cross between sweet potato and galangal (a type of ginger), tastes like Globe artichoke and is related to the sunflower. That is one confused root vegetable! The name comes from the Italian word for sunflower; ‘Girasole’ which has over the years become Jerusalem. The plant is native to North America where the tuber like roots were often used in the past as a staple in much the same way as a potato. The native Americans often referred to them as sun chokes. The girasole was brought over to Europe in the 1600’s and introduced to France by Monsieur Samuel de Champlain. The plant itself acts in much the same way as weeds due to its hardiness and unless controlled can spread. So for this reason growing your own is remarkably easy.
There are so many different ways in which this wonderful vegetable can be transformed, mashed, roasted or pureed; it’s really all down to personal preference and experimentation. So I will give you mine, which makes for a superb, yet different starter.
Jerusalem artichokes with balsamic and Portobello mushroom.
• 1 Jerusalem artichoke finely diced
• 4 Portobello mushrooms
• Half a lemon
• 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
• A few sprigs of thyme
• Salt & pepper
• Butter for frying
Method: Once you have peeled and finely diced your artichoke, melt some butter in a pan and add the artichoke. Fry on a low heat for 5-10mins until softened, add the thyme, lemon juice and balsamic and salt and pepper and reduce on a high heat, when you reduce a liquid fast the flavours will remain strong and intense. After a few minutes of reduction remove from the heat and pour over your Portobello mushrooms, these should then be seasoned and placed in the oven at 190C for 10 minutes.
This is such a fantastic combination of flavours owing to the nuttiness of the artichoke, the beautiful flavour of the mushroom nicely cut by the balsamic. A simple starter which does confuse a lot of people and they will be bound to ask what the artichoke is…it’s in season now so don’t waste time, their not around for long!