Sunday, June 10, 2012

Winter Sunshine

As most of you would be aware, each week the Gourmet Goddess kitchen receives a delivery of local, organic and chemical free produce from the fabulous folks at Food Connect in Sydney. One of the great things about this, apart from the first rate, ethical produce - is that they often include seasonal vegetables or fruit that are not terribly common on most dinner tables. This was one of those weeks. Amongst the cornucopia of seasonal produce was a stash of freshly dug Jerusalem artichokes - dirt still attached. At first glance I thought they were ginger roots, but I was thrilled when I realised that they were in fact the first Jerusalem artichoke crop of the winter.

Native to the eastern part of North America, also called sunroot or earth apple, the Jerusalem artichoke is in fact not an artichoke at all. It is actually a tuber vegetable related to the sunflower and does not resemble the well known green globe artichokes in any way, either in looks or in taste. So if you started reading this post and immediately thought - "Ick. I hate artichokes" - don't despair. These are artichokes in name only. Just to confuse things, they also have absolutely nothing to do with Jerusalem. So the name is not only 100% misleading, it is also geographically incorrect. On top of the identity crisis, they are also - let's be frank here -pretty damned ugly looking. Now that we have that out of the way, let's talk flavour. Nutty, slightly creamy and delicious, these gorgeous winter vegetables taste great roasted', fried into crispy chips or pureed with potatoes for a beautiful tasting mash. Because they are in season at the moment, now really is the time to enjoy them at their best.

Jerusalem Artichokes
- not an artichoke and not from Jerusalem.
Go figure.

Today, I decided to team them with fresh seasonal cauliflower and create a creamy winter soup. These flavours work in perfect harmony and make a change from the usual repertoire of winter soups. This soup is not only great served in a rustic style with a hunk of freshly baked bread, it is also perfect all dressed up, as part of a dinner party or degustation menu.

Cauliflower and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

So, give these mis-named, not so pretty winter vegetables a try. They are absolutely delicious - however you choose to cook them -  and will become part of many a winter menu once you discover their inner beauty. It's cold outside - let this relative of the sunflower bring some winter sunshine in!

You will need: 2 large brown onions, 2 large peeled potatoes, 1/2 cauliflower, about 400g jerusalem artichokes, 3 cloves garlic, 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, 1/2 cup milk (if you want something really sumptuous, use cream), 1 apple, 1/2 cup flaked almonds, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, pepper, pinch of cayenne pepper, parsley or chives and a drizzle of fruity olive oil to serve.

Method: Scrub the artichokes to clean any dirt off them - you do not need to peel them. Cut the cauliflower into florets. Roughly chop the onion, potato and artichokes into generous chunks. Roughly chop the garlic.

Heat the olive oil in a pot and add the onion. Cook it gently for about 5 minutes until it starts to soften. Add the garlic and the artichokes and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Add the potato and the cauliflower, season generously with salt and pepper, add the pinch of cayenne and allow to cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the chicken stock. Bring the mixture to the boil and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes, until the vegetables are very soft. Remove from the heat and blend the mixture until smooth with a hand blender or food processor. Add the milk (or cream) and taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper as required.

When you are ready to serve, spoon the soup into bowls and top with a little of the parsley or chives. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with crusty bread.

Serves 4-6 people


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