The last days of 2014 brought rock hard ground, an iced up pond, and beautiful hoar frosts to my grasses and hydrangea heads, but most importantly, sweetness to my prize winter crop – Jerusalem artichokes. They, as with celeriac, kale and Brussels sprouts, to mention a few, embrace a hard frost to enhance their sweetness and texture.
I grow these little knobbly gems in large tubs / plastic dustbins, as they grow rampantly in open ground. Probably the easiest and least needy of any vegetable to grow, Jerusalem artichokes are neither from Jerusalem nor an artichoke, but rather part of the sunflower family, as their luscious growth shooting skyward by mid summer, evidences. If after reading this you wish to grow ‘a few’, I urge you to try. The Jerusalem artichokes you can buy for eating are perfect for burying in the ground. They vary in colour from white to gold to purply red. Keep them contained and you will have a crop for decades as long as you leave a few in the container each year and top up with compost after harvesting.
The taste of these gnarled winter treats is sweet and nutty. They are sophisticated in texture and taste and they can be transformed into swanky salads (yes, they can be eaten raw – try grated with a little carrot, beetroot, blue cheese and a lemony dressing made with a good nut oil). Or try sweet sticky fries, roasted, mashed, sliced to mix into a dauphinoise, gratin or blitz into a velvety soup. Really, what is there not to like about these beauties, other than skinning them maybe? Peeling a witch’s nose may be easier than peeling these, although the modern varieties are less gnarled. The skin is not offensive if you can’t be bothered to peel them; however, one trick is to parboil them before slipping off the skins with your fingers.
Now, Truly Scrumptious followers will remember that last edition I used poultry pickings, or poached chicken if you were being posh, and I am using chicken here again – (apologies veggies) but this is a good healthy recipe this month – a fresh unusual taste using these humble ingredients with large quantities of tarragon and lemon – fresh and truly flavoursome. If you don’t eat meat, then make a classy soup or sauté in butter with sage leaves and a squeeze of lemon and serve with a poached organic egg.
Jerusalem artichokes with chicken, saffron and lemon
Approx. £9.50 when all ingredients bought at Buttlings and Ludwell Stores.
Saffron, lemon and chicken – always a great combination – written with a big nod to my favourite chef of the moment, Yotam Ottolenghi. Follow Ottolenghi on twitter@ottolenghi for inspiring writing and photos from this phenomenal, original chef.
Top tip – Plan ahead to leave it to marinate as long as you dare
500g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into thick wedges
3 tbs fresh lemon juice
8 large chicken thighs, on the bone with the skin on
12 banana shallots peeled and halved lengthways
12 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 lemon, cut in half lengthways then into very thin slices
2 tsp saffron threads
50 ml olive oil
150 ml cold water
1½ tbs pink peppercorns, slightly crushed (optional – in brine – not the dried ones)
10g fresh thyme leaves
40g tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
2 tsp salt and ½ tsp black pepper
Preheat the oven to 240°C / gas mark 9 (AGA roasting oven, middle shelf)
1. Cover the prepared Jerusalem artichokes with cold water, add half the lemon juice, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or until tender but not soft. Drain and leave to cool in a large bowl.
2. Add all the remaining ingredients excluding the remaining lemon juice and half the tarragon and mix well with your hands, rubbing the marinade into the chicken well.
3. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours.
4. Place the chicken, skin-side up, in a roasting tin and spread the vegetables and marinade around the chicken.
5. Roast for 30minutes, then cover with foil and cook for a further 15 minutes, by which time the chicken should be cooked through.
6. Remove from the oven and add the reserved tarragon and lemon juice. Mix well, taste and add more salt if needed.
7. Serve at once with kale, steamed and then tossed lightly in butter, sprinkled with toasted almonds.
8. I’m not even going to lower myself to mention the notorious, guaranteed after effects of these little treasures. Serve them to children and you will have them sniggering all night. I suggest the rest of the family sleep alone!
A truly, truly scrumptious earthy yet flavoursome mid-week winter supper
Our third guest contributor is Alyson Peacock, known to many as past Ludwell School governor, keen gardener and one of the stalwart team who got Ludwell Orchard project off the ground. Alyson has lived in the village with her family for over 25 years and believes in the 'You are what you eat' philosophy, so enjoys a mostly vegetarian diet, hence her scrummy recipes below. (Nonetheless, I know Alyson can weaken at roast chicken and crispy bacon....much like the rest of us!) aif
When I agreed to contribute to these pages some time ago now, I thought it would be easy. I could just regurgitate a favourite recipe (what an unfortunate image for a cookery page!) …tell you all how delicious it is and urge you to make it.
Now here I am looking at a blank white page and I find it’s not that simple. I’m not permitted to duplicate recipes from well known chefs and these are the starting points for many of us – these, or our mother’s tried and trusted recipes which come from so far in the past they can no longer be attributed to a published cook.
I find I have quite productive and successful periods in the kitchen that last for several weeks, then there are fallow periods when I simply can’t even remember what I have cooked before and feel bereft of inspiration. That’s how I’m feeling now about this article so I thought why not let the whiteness of the page be my starting point? I searched through my kitchen notebooks to find a few ways I’ve cooked white vegetables over the years; celeriac, parsnips and the humble potato. All are perfect accompaniments to roasts this Christmas.
The celeriac recipe is a meal in itself and is delicious with crusty bread and a green salad, especially peppery watercress salad. If necessary it can be cooked several hours before serving and is easily reheated. The crusted parsnip cakes recipe is a Swedish idea originally intended for potatoes but I think they are much tastier made with parsnips. They can be served as a vegetarian dish with a little crème fraîche or sour cream, or as an accompaniment to other dishes. The spicy fried potatoes are great with curries of course but equally good accompanying sausages, other meats and vegetarian burgers.
If you would like to be a guest contributor to Truly Scrumptious, please let us know firstname.lastname@example.org.
Celeriac and Walnut Gratin
1 Celeriac – large
2 tbs Walnut oil (or olive oil)
300 ml Vegetable stock Walnuts – chopped (generous handful)
100 g Stilton or Bleu d’Auvergne cheese
Salt and Black pepper
Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C / gas 5.
1. Slice the bottom of the celeriac to stabilize it and peel off its skin with a sharp knife. Quarter it and then slice very thinly.
2. Toss the slices in the walnut oil and season.
3. Place in a gratin dish and cover with stock.
4. Cook for 40–45 minutes or until celeriac is tender.
5. Remove from the oven and scatter over the crumbled cheese and walnuts and then return to the oven for a further 15 minutes until crisp and golden.
Hazelnut Crusted Parsnip (or Potato) Cakes
4 Large parsnips, chopped into large chunks
½ tsp Turmeric
110 g Hazelnuts coarsely ground (cashews, almonds or pistachios are fine)
60 g Fine breadcrumbs – wholemeal
1½ tsp Cumin seeds
Salt and Cooking oil
1. Boil or steam the parsnips. Drain them well and leave to cool.
2. Mash well and add salt to taste and turmeric.
3. Toss the nuts with the breadcrumbs, cumin seeds and ½ tsp of salt.
4. Scoop up handfuls of the parsnip mixture; press into the nut mixture to coat both sides, at the same time flattening them into thin patties.
5. Heat oil in a skillet and fry the cakes over a medium heat until they are browned and crusty. Potatoes with Sesame Seeds
2 kg Potatoes – firm or waxy
6 tbs Vegetable oil
2 tsp Cumin seeds
2 tsp Black mustard seeds – whole
2 tbl Sesame seeds
1. Boil the potatoes in their skins. Drain and cool. Cut into 2 cm dice.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over a medium heat. When oil is very hot put in all the seeds.
3. When the mustard seeds start to pop add the potatoes and seasoning and fry until some of their surfaces are golden and crispy.
All Truly scrumptious at any time of the year
Many thanks Alyson
Guest contributors – Jo and Phil James, Ludwell Stores
When asked if we would be guest contributors to ‘Truly Scrumptious’, we eagerly accepted. We ummmed and aahed about how clever we could be and what wonderful dishes we could get you to try. Finally with the heavy fare of Christmas still in our minds and our bellies we decided upon something comforting but healthy, colourful, light and of course scrumptious.
We have always loved Spanish/Moorish/Moroccan fare and so admire Sam & Sam Clark’s food from Moro restaurant in London. Originally a Turkish dish, our ‘Truly Scrumptious’ recipe is basically a delicious roasted ratatouille with a few roots and spices thrown in. A generous handful of ‘greenery’ before serving adds a nice crunch and a great fresh flavour. We eat it as a main course with some yogurt sauce and a pile of pitta bread (could equally be a side dish).
If Phil is feeling very enthusiastic he might throw in a huge bowl of homemade hummus. He tries not to get too despondent when Alice, our 8 year old and the household’s self-appointed food critic, informs him that his gorgeous bowl of golden oil-drizzled organic goodness is not a patch on the ‘real thing’, a branded product which lives pre-prepared in the shop’s chiller cabinet.
Feeding children is such a tricky business – it is so easy to get pushy with foods and establish ‘food terrors’ (avocados and mushrooms in our house); whilst one doesn’t want to make food an issue, there are days when we just don’t feel up to the fight. So we compromise; Phil and I eat the odd fish finger (100% fillet, because you have to draw the line somewhere), as long as the children eat the odd courgette. It works fairly well for us all; although Phil and I are more biddable than the children and tend to keep our side of the deal with less fuss.
A must for parents with fussy children is The Man who ate Everything by American food critic Jeffrey Steingarten. He asserts that if you try anything ten times you will learn to like it. It seems to work, Harry has managed mushrooms three times now…. And, once tiny quantities of ‘tricky’ foods make that journey from plate to mouth, the floodgates start to open. The list of foods the children will eat is slowly getting longer than the list of foods they won’t.
We can’t pretend that Turlu Turlu is the children’s favourite dish but we persevere because it is one of ours. Harry eats most of a plateful and Alice leaks a little less noise now that she knows where to find the chickpeas. So please try it at least ten times, especially if you are feeding it to children, it is truly scrumptious. AIF
If anyone else would like to be a guest contributor to Truly Scrumptious, please let us know email@example.com
(A James family special from Ludwell Stores)
Approx. £6.85 when purchased in Ludwell
3 courgettes, trimmed and cut into 2cm discs
1 aubergine, halved lengthways and cut into ½ again
1 onion, cut into large chunks
3 garlic cloves, thickly sliced
1 green pepper, halved, seeded and thickly sliced
3 carrots, peeled, halved lengthways and cut in three
200g turnips, cut into wedges about 2cm thick
2 potatoes, cut into 2cm cubes
3 tbls extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp ground allspice
2 tsp coriander seeds, coarsely ground
3 tbls cooked/canned chickpeas
150 ml tomato passata or good chopped toms crushed while cooking
1 small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley and
1 small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
sea salt and black pepper/lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F / Gas 7
1. Sprinkle a teaspoon of fine sea salt on the courgettes and aubergine and allow to stand for 20 mins before rinsing.
2. In a large bowl, toss the aubergine, onion, garlic, peppers, carrots, turnips and potatoes with the olive oil, allspice, coriander seeds and a little salt and pepper.
3. Spread the vegetable mixture on a large roasting tray, no more than one layer deep and place in the preheated oven.
4. After 40 minutes, gently stir in the courgettes and cook for another 15 minutes.
5. Meanwhile heat up the chickpeas with the passata or tomato sauce in a pan, and check for seasoning.
6. Now add to your vegetables. Stir well with your prepared herbs and add a squeeze of lemon juice to taste.
Serve with a green salad and yoghurt sauce made from crushed garlic mixed with a little ground cumin in Greek yoghurt.
A truly, truly scrumptious dish
Many thanks to the James family (firstname.lastname@example.org)
These musings and recipes are gleaned from The Donhead Digest with the permission of AIF, their author.