I love Jerusalem artichokes – so much so, in fact, that I was willing to brave the snow here last Saturday to make a trip to our local farmers’ market in search of them. These knobbly, unpromising-looking tubers are well worth getting to know, if you don’t already. They have an earthy sweetness, and are very versatile – in many ways, you can treat them as you would a potato, they are delicious roasted, mashed, sautéed… Yum.
My love of sunchokes*, as they are sometimes known over here, is relatively recent. When I first moved to London, I lived with three boys I’d been at university with, and for a few years, we settled into post-student life – that is, a life in which our alcohol intake and level of responsibility placed on us were on a par with our student years, but where jobs + salaries = better funding… We are all now very grown up, of course. The area we lived in was lots of fun, but one thing we were lacking was a place to buy good fruit & veg locally. The situation has improved, and there are now a couple of good farmers’ markets in Brixton and Oval, but before these were up and running we decided to get a weekly veg box from the wonderful Growing Communities at Hackney City Farm. It’s an amazing enterprise, which, among other things, has an organic fruit and veg box scheme, and which has recently won the Observer Food Monthly award for Best Independent Local Retailer. We had no choice about what we received in our weekly supply, and so I cooked for the first time with beetroot, Jerusalem artichoke, kale.. to name but a few. We also used to receive recipe sheets each week with our produce, and one of the weeks included this recipe for Jerusalem risotto, which I made, and promptly fell in love with.
This is a great recipe – it involves cooking the thinly sliced artichokes down till they’re a jam-like consistency which melts into the risotto and the end result is wonderful. However, full disclosure: it does take a bit of time. It’s not difficult, but peeling and slicing the ‘chokes, and cooking them slowly till they’re all caramelised and yummy, takes a bit of patience. Once they’re cooking, you can do other things (such as washing up after the delicious curry your boyfriend made the night before…), but you do need to be on hand to stir now and then to make sure they don’t catch on the bottom. And, of course, making the risotto itself does take a certain amount of stove time… I would not be posting this, however, if I did not think it was 100% worth it!
A word about stock – of course, it is much better if you happen to have on hand/have time to make homemade stock. However, if you’re not able to do this, just use a stock cube or bouillon powder – I use them for risotto fairly regularly as I’m rarely organised enough to coincide making risotto with having stock in the house. That’s my tuppence-worth, for what it’s… worth.
*I was about to write a slightly scathing ‘pah, why are they called sunchokes?’-type comment, when I realised there is no rhyme nor reason to their being called Jerusalem artichokes, either – and when you see the plant’s flowers, the whole ‘sun’choke thing starts to make sense…
Jerusalem artichoke risotto
- 2 knobs butter
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion – finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
- Jerusalem artichokes – approx 10
- Salt & pepper
- 200g / 1 cup Arborio risotto rice (or another risotto rice)
- 100ml dry white wine
- 600ml chicken or vegetable stock
- Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
- Approx 1tbsp grated parmesan, plus more to serve
Wash the Jerusalem artichokes, if they are dirty, and peel. Slice them into very thin rounds – you could use a mandolin if you have one. Put the slices into a bowl of water with lemon juice to prevent discolouration.
Heat one of the knobs of butter with the olive oil in a medium sauce pan until the butter has melted. Add the onion and garlic, turn the heat down very low and saute for two minutes. Add the artichokes to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and allow to cook until the mix reaches the consistency of jam/marmalade – this can take around 30-40 minutes. Stir every few minutes, to ensure none of the mix is catching on the bottom of the pan. Heat the stock in a pan, and keep warm on the stove.
Turn the heat up slightly – add the risotto rice and allow to toast slightly, before adding the white wine. Cook, stirring, until the wine has been absorbed. Add the stock a ladle at a time – stir regularly, and allow each ladle of stock to be absorbed before adding the next ladle of stock. Continue this process until the rice is cooked to your liking – you may not need all of the stock, or you may need more. If you run out, continue with hot water. Taste, season with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice, if you like.
Take the pan off the heat, add the second knob of butter and the parmesan, and stir until melted. Serve immediately, topped with more grated parmesan.