Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Creamy Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

Knobbly needn't always signify knees. Just look at these! Jerusalem artichokes are the most extraordinary shape with a serious resemblance to ginger. Nothing to do with globe artichokes and definitely not with Jerusalem either.

But I seem to spend my life peeling odd vegetables. Invariably it's worth it and these aren't as awkward as they look. They are actually edible tubers which originated in North America where they are also known as sunchokes or earth apples. Interestingly enough, this last is the exact translation of the Turkish name for them: yer elması. Despite their appearance, their taste is quite unique and made into a soup, will have your guests wondering what they're eating.

peeled and naked
Here in Turkey they are at the height of their season right now as it runs from November to March.You will probably find them in up-market restaurants rather than in the home and probably as a meze in olive oil/zeytinyağlı. Always choose firm fresh-looking ones; they will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks unpeeled. If you peel them ahead of time, make sure you put them in cold water with a little lemon juice otherwise they will discolour.

Here is my recipe for Creamy Jerusalem Artichoke Soup which I discovered last year thanks to Gary Rhodes. He is one of my real hero British chefs.  This soup is a real winner for a dinner party as it looks and tastes sophisticated.

Serves 6

600g/1lb 5oz Jerusalem artichokes, peeled
1 small potato (about 100-140g/4-5oz) quartered
1 large onion, chopped
600ml/1pt vegetable or chicken stock ( use bought fresh or make up with a stock cube)
450ml/16fl oz milk

to serve:
2 heaped tbsp finely grated parmesan
142ml carton single or whipping cream
1-2 tbsp milk
2 tsp snipped chives, optional


Put all the ingredients in a pan and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer, covered, for about 20-30 mins or until the artichokes and potatoes have become very tender. Liquidise the soup in batches until completely smooth. If you want to thin it, add more stock.

To serve:

Pour the cream into a small pan and simmer to reduce by a third. Stir in the parmesan and let it melt. (For a little extra body, add a tbsp or two of soup.) Stir in 1-2 tbsp milk to cool it down, then blitz with a stick blender, if you like, for a frothy finish. (To avoid any splashes, transfer the cream to a larger pan or deep bowl to do this.) Ladle the soup between soup bowls, topping each with the warmed cream and a sprinkling of chives if using.

  •  This is a remarkably clear recipe, I think. I sieved the finished soup before adding the garnish just to ensure that velvety consistency. 
  •  Since we don't get chives here, I used spring onions. Definitely a good idea to have that green contrast with the velvety creamy colour.
  • I did use my stick blender at the last minute but it didn't get particularly frothy. Was it the cream, I wonder? The parmesan is a wonderful touch as it just adds to the depth of taste.

Gary recommends Parmesan sticks to serve. You can buy them here so I got some of those. I also served some wonderful brown bread full of seeds. As a starter, it was a big success!