Jerusalem artichokes are as confusing as they are delicious.
Neither from Jerusalem nor a type of globe artichoke, they are in fact a root vegetable native to North America. To complicate things further, their knobbly appearance more resembles ginger root or turmeric than a vegetable per se. This is because they’re the underground tubers of a variety of sunflower (and therefore known as sunchokes in some parts of the world).
Some believe their flavour to be a cross between a globe artichoke and a potato – thus their name – and this means Jerusalem artichokes are supremely tasty. But these gnarly tubers are sadly underappreciated because they’re famously hard to digest; to put it delicately, they cause flatulence. This isn’t difficult to work around, however, and it’s worth the effort to enjoy their sweet, crunchy and nutty notes. Combining them with other starchy vegetables like potatoes can mitigate the worst of their digestive punch. And nutritionally speaking, they’re worth the effort, too, being a good source of thiamine and niacin, as well as iron.
When buying Jerusalem artichokes, look for firm specimens. If you do wish to peel them use a teaspoon to scrape away the skin, just as you would with ginger root, to avoid wasting too much of the flesh. Once peeled, pop them into a bowl of cold water spiked with lemon juice to stop them turning brown. But really, peeling isn’t necessary; just give them a good scrub under cool running water.
Jerusalem artichokes are supremely versatile and their flavour pairs beautifully with an array of ingredients. Think of all the ways you enjoy other root vegetables and take a similar approach with Jerusalem artichokes: boil and mash, roast, deep fry, or puree into rich and delicious soup.
Mash and puree: scrub/peel, chop and boil the tubers – be vigilant as they turn to mush in the blink of an eye – and then mash roughly or use a potato ricer for a silky-smooth puree. Mix in other cooked root vegetables such as potatoes, celeriac or squash if you like, along with lots of butter or good olive oil, and season generously with salt. You can supercharge the flavour by adding finely chopped garlic, finely chopped spring onions, grated Parmesan cheese or Gruyere, a splash of cream or freshly grated nutmeg. Serve with white fish and roasted meats. To make soup, simply loosen the mash to your favoured consistency with vegetable or chicken stock.
Deep fry: just like potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes make fantastic chips. Or try a variation on the famous Spanish tapas dishpatatas bravas. Deep fry bite-sized chunks of Jerusalem artichokes in vegetable oil until tender and then douse with a rich paprika-spiked tomato sauce. Or slice very finely, ideally on a mandolin, and deep fry into crisps – gorgeous lightly sprinkled with vinegar.
Sauté: Jerusalem artichokes are a flavour sponge, so make the most of this virtue. Fry off chopped lardons, pancetta or chorizo, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, and then add cubed Jerusalem artichokes to the hot rendered fat. Fry until crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, then add the cooked meat back into the pan to warm through. Serve with seared scallops, prawns or octopus or add to a salad with a good vinaigrette dressing. Alternatively, add sliced cooked mushrooms and kale to the pan with the artichokes, and serve with a poached or fried egg on top for a delicious hash-style breakfast.
Roast: cut into chunks, toss in olive oil and roast along with other root vegetables. Serve as an accompaniment to roast meat – their robust flavour stands up well to lamb, beef and game. Or tumble the roasted veg with cooked grains or giant couscous, fresh chopped herbs and a sharp dressing for a comforting warm salad.
Raw: Most of us only ever consider eating Jerusalem artichokes cooked, but their crisp clean flavour makes them a lovely salad ingredient, too. Shave thinly on a mandolin or cut ribbons with a vegetable peeler and serve with other chunks of pear and walnuts, or bitter leaves like chicory or rocket, plus plump sultanas and shavings of Parmesan cheese. Always anoint with a good sharp dressing.
Risotto: the earthiness of Jerusalem artichokes makes a wonderfully rich and comforting risotto. Toss small equal-sized chunks in olive oil and season with salt, then roast covered with foil in a 180C oven until almost tender. Remove the foil, add a handful of sliced mushrooms, stir well and roast until lightly golden and cooked through.Cook your risotto rice as per your usual method, then stir the roasted vegetables through at the end, making sure to taste for seasoning. Finish with grated Parmesan cheese and finely grated lemon zest.
Jerusalem artichokes pair wellwith truffle oil, butter, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, other root vegetables including potatoes, seafood including scallops, prawns and octopus.
Get FREE Food & Drink tips and ideas from our experts in your inbox.