I have a very good friend that I don’t get to see very much, because he lives at the other end of the country. We chat on the phone about food and life. He has an allotment – I would love to have an allotment, but my Parish Council doesn’t own any. (Apparently there’s a very old law that states that if 6 people want allotments the council has to provide them, so I’m working on it.)
As the growing season gets into gear I am getting bulletins from my friend about the state of his seedlings and the warmth of the soil, and yesterday he sent me a parcel of wonderful Jerusalem artichokes, of which he has a glut.
Jerusalem artichokes are the root of the sunflower (girasol = Jerusalem) and are often known as sunchokes to distinguish them from the other thistly kind. Here’s what he has to say about them:
“Jerusalem artichokes (the ones you have are called Fuseau) are a very underrated vegetable. They are really easy and trouble free to grow. They have almost no natural predators and are generally disease free. They multiply year on year and will take over your garden if you’re not careful.
Plant in March; if you want large tubers enrich the soil with manure/compost and plant the tubers 5 inches deep and about 18 inches apart. The plants grow to about six feet so may need some support otherwise do nothing except begin to dig up in October till February.
Prepare and cook like potatoes (when peeled or scraped they should be placed in water with some lemon or vinegar as the flesh discolours quickly). They can be boiled baked flaked just like spuds but they have a distinctive nutty taste. They make excellent soup - very creamy so don't add strong stock or cream as some of the celeb chefs suggest.”
(I’m going to try and get him to write a regular allotment bulletin for this blog so we can all stay in touch with the soil.)
Meanwhile, here’s a signature dish from one celebrity chef, the great Gordon Ramsay. (I considered leaving out the scallops, but just the thought of the mighty Ramsay, ex football player for Glasgow Rangers, bearing down upon me made me change my mind…but I did leave out the truffle) Take a look at the menu from his Claridge’s restaurant and salivate – even if they don’t know how to spell radish!
Jerusalem artichoke risotto with scallops
200g risotto rice
500ml hot chicken stock
200g Jerusalem artichokes, washed and sliced
25g parmesan cheese,
grated Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 large scallops, sliced
50ml sherry vinegar
1 Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan, add the rice, and stir for 2-3 minutes so the rice absorbs the oil. Add the stock a little at a time, stirring constantly, until it has all been absorbed and the rice is cooked - around 25-30 minutes.
2 Meanwhile, cook the artichokes in 50g of the butter until soft. Add the cream. Reduce down until the cream has almost evaporated and the artichokes are velvety in texture, stirring every now and then to make sure it’s not catching on the bottom of the pan. Purée in a food processor. Mix the artichoke purée into the rice and add the remaining 50g of butter and the parmesan. Check for seasoning.
3 Slice each scallop into three pieces and sauté in hot oil for 1 minute on each side until they’re medium-rare. Place on top of the risotto. In a heavy-based pan, heat the sugar until it’s a dark golden colour. Carefully add the sherry vinegar and reduce until you have a thick syrup. Drizzle this over the risotto, and serve.
from Kitchen Heaven by Gordon Ramsay
When I was making this I really did feel like I was working in a restaurant kitchen – everything happens at once and you use every pan you own. The sink stacks up with pots and pans and wooden spoons. I forgot to heat the plates. I forgot the parmesan (which I think would have given the missing salty taste), and I would not like to cook this for six people. It’s good though, and the sherry caramel is a real surprise.