From Humble Origins

One of the many advantages of having parents with an allotment is coming home to find that lovely fresh veg has appeared in my kitchen as if by magic. Another is the diversity of produce that I might not otherwise partake of. With the festive season upon us it seemed appropriate to find Jerusalam Artichokes amongst the haul. These are root vegetables and not to be confused with those flashy Globe Artichokes one often sees.

The Jerusalem Artichoke is an almost entirely unheralded treasure and yet it has this wonderful, unique flavour. I don’t recall seeing them on sale in the supermarkets or on any restaurant menu. Why is there no room at the inn for this shining star?

I think I might have an answer. This is what I cooked with them…

Ingredients
500g Jerusalem artichokes
150ml créme fraiche
1 Lemon
1 Garlic clove
Breadcrumbs
Thyme
Parmesan

Fresh from the soil
Fresh from the soil

Instructions

1) The fun starts here. All the cook book advice I have read says you should peel artichokes. Can you see the problem with this?

All shapes and sizes
All shapes and sizes

I tried peeling one with a small sharp knife and it took ages. Then I tried cutting off the nodules but soon realised there was nothing much left. In the end I settled for scraping the skins off.

...much later!
…much later!

This is still an effort but entirely worth while. In all probability you could simply scrub them and leave the skins on as they are reasonably thin.

And I wonder if this is why you don’t see them in the shops. They grow very happily in British conditions so supply can’t be the problem but maybe supermarkets think the odd shapes will deter people from buying them.

2) Slice the artichokes to pound coin width and layer into a baking dish.

No crib for a bed
No crib for a bed

3) Now make a sauce. Grate some parmesan and finely chop the garlic.

In the mix
In the mix

Take the créme fraiche stir in the garlic, the parmesan and the juice of half a lemon. Finally chop a little thyme and stir that in too

Its all coming together
Its all coming together

Pour the sauce over the sliced artichokes.

4) Now grate some more parmesan and mix it up with the breadcrumbs. Optionally mix in some more chopped thyme and a little grated lemon zest. Sprinkle this over the dish and drizzle some olive oil.

Keep the faith...
Keep the faith…

5) Whack it in the oven at 220 degrees for 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the surface and if the breadcrumbs are golden after 20 minutes cover with tin foil to prevent burning.

Behold, a miracle!
Behold, a miracle!

And there we are – an immaculate conception. I can testify that this tastes heavenly. A star is born!