February is proving to be as miserable as it generally succeeds in being. Not only has this recession become a scary reality, we are also going through the coldest snap of weather we have seen in years. It's dark, cold and miserable and I for one cannot wait to see March in a couple of week’s time.
To add to this, it is also a poor month for edible produce. Aside from early forced rhubarb and winter staples such as potatoes, onions, leeks and swedes, British fruit and vegetable choices are few and far between.
The one light at the end of this tunnel of depression is a brilliant vegetable, the Jerusalem artichoke. Much like last week's discussion on chard, it is a misunderstood and under-used vegetable. The name doesn't help as it has absolutely no relation the globe artichoke you will be more familiar with. It is actually the root or tuber of a particular sunflower and if you have never seen one, think of a ginger root with cylindrical rings on the surface of their gnarly skin.
The taste is quite nutty with a bit of sweetness from their natural sugars depending on how old they are. Roasted, steamed, boiled or mashed, they are such a lovely addition to the plate. My favourite thing to do with a Jerusalem artichoke is to turn it into a soup; they blend perfectly to make for the silkiest of textures. The one downside to them are their famous wind-inducing properties due to their complex carbohydrates or inulin. This of course may be an added to bonus to fans of flatulence...
Smoky Jerusalem Artichoke and Ginger Soup
500g Jerusalem Artichokes, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 thumb size of ginger, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 tsp smoked paprika
A pinch of cayenne pepper
750ml vegetable stock
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
Salt and pepper
Pumpkin seeds (optional) lightly toasted in a dry pan
1 - Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the Jerusalem artichokes, onion, garlic and ginger. Cook for around 5 minutes until beginning to soften.
2 - Add the tomato purée, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper and cook for 1 minute, stirring all of the time.
3 - Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minutes until the Jerusalem artichokes are soft.
4 - Using a hand blender or food processor, blend the soup until smooth. Stir in the yoghurt and taste for seasoning. Serve with optional toasted pumpkin seeds and a sprinkling of paprika.