The ugliest vegetable? Jerusalem artichokes

Poor, poor Jerusalem artichokes. They will never win any beauty contests.

In fact, they aren’t even really artichokes. They are actually the root part of a particular type of sunflower – it’s likely that their name comes from the Italian ‘girasole’ (meaning ‘sunflower’). I’ve always seen these mentioned on cookery programmes but I’ve never actually tried them myself until now. They’re in season at the moment and since I’m making more of an effort to use seasonal produce, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to taste them. In all honesty, there wasn’t much choice when I looked for vegetarian recipes – most were for soup. At the weekend I decided to flip through my recipe file, which contains everything I’ve torn out of magazines over the years and never got round to trying. Luckily, I found this recipe for a Jerusalem artichoke risotto which I had saved from an old issue of Delicious.

Although the method of cooking the rice seemed a little unconventional, it turned out very well. The artichokes bring a nutty creaminess and the fennel adds a further depth to the dish.

Ingredients (To serve about 4 people)

4 tbsp olive oil

2 finely chopped onions

2 finely chopped garlic cloves

1 tbsp fennel seeds, plus enough toasted fennel seeds to sprinkle on at the end

500g Jerusalem artichoke, peeled and chopped into smallish pieces

1 litre of hot vegetable stock

350g risotto rice

200ml dry white wine (I used vermouth)

4 tbsp grated Parmesan (or a vegetarian alternative like this one, available at Waitrose and some farm shops)

20g butter

A little extra olive oil for drizzling

1. Heat a little oil in a large pan over a low heat. Gently fry onion, garlic and fennel seeds until the onions have softened. Keep stirring to ensure that the onions do not colour or burn.

2. Add the Jerusalem artichokes and stock, cover and leave to simmer for about 15 minutes or until the artichoke is cooked.

3. Blend this mixture to form a sort of soup.

4. Heat a heavy-based saucepan with the remaining olive oil and add the rice. Fry for about two minutes, stirring frequently.

5. Add the wine (and enjoy the beautiful sound it makes as it hits the pan) and simmer until it has been absorbed by the rice.

6. Add a ladleful of the soup mixture to the rice and stir. Once this has been absorbed, repeat with another ladleful and so on. After about 20 minutes the rice should be al dente and most of the soup will have been absorbed. (I found that mine took a little longer – I needed to add a little extra water to my soup mixture and then add this to the rice to make sure that it cooked)

7. Once the rice is cooked, stir in the Parmesan and the butter (I forgot the butter – it really wasn’t a problem. Fine to leave this out if you’re feeling health conscious!) and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle on the toasted fennel seeds and voilà, enjoy!

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~ by smileysoyabean on 23 February 2012.

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