I had not knowingly eaten a Jerusalem Artichoke until last year. I’ve had artichokes as part of antipasti of course but when I came across Jerusalem Artichokes in my local greengrocer I had no idea what they were. Why would I? They are fairly non-descript and misnamed. They actually look like a cross between ginger root and a potato.
The name is very confusing because it has no connection with Jerusalem and it isn’t an artichoke. It is a member of the sunflower family and so settlers in North America from Europe named it girasole (italian for sunflower). The word may have been corrupted in speech by English settlers (sounds about right…we love killing the language to this day).
Knowledge of ingredients is crucial. Having an idea of the power of flavour can make or break a dish. I’ve got it wrong in the past just when adding Jerusalem artichokes to mashed potato. It changed the character completely due to the proportions I used. I think of them as warming and slightly sweet.
I chose the Simply Recipes version because I liked the limited number of ingredients. I was happy to let the flavour speak for itself. As ever I checked what I had in the fridge and did a little substitution – in this case a leek for some onion but otherwise I kept it pretty straightforward. The method is standard soup making. The leeks and onion is sweated down with celery then the sunchoke chunks (easy for you to say) are added along with the chicken stock. The mixture has a surprisingly long simmer – 45 minutes. The texture of the artichoke is quite like water chestnuts. Even after 45 minutes I wasn’t convinced that they were cooked but it was time to finish the soup.
The stick blender is the final test. I love judging how long to blend for. In this case I wanted a silky smooth soup. Despite my misgivings it blended quickly and turned a lovely cream colour. The distinct flavour came through well but not overpoweringly so. One of our kitchen design features was having a set of power sockets right by the hob. It means you don’t have to move the hot pan too far and is a great idea.