ArchiveJanuary 2008

Jerusalem artichokes are a ‘wonder winter vegetable’

Jerusalem artichokes are a ‘wonder winter vegetable’. If you plant one you will be rewarded with a terrific crop of 10-15 small misshapen tubers that look a bit like knobbly potatoes.

They are in season from November to late February-early March and if you have a few in your garden you can just dig, wash and cook immediately. If they are out of the earth for longer they usually need to be peeled for soups or purees. They spread like mad and can be left in the ground until March or early April when they begin to soften. The name is somewhat confusing because it is neither an artichoke nor does it come from Jerusalem, its roots are in North America, and according to Jane Grigson in her timeless classic ‘The Vegetable Book’, “ French explorers saw them first in 1605 in Massachusetts, a crop grown by Indians at Nausett Harbour, Cape Cod. One of the party was the great Samuel Champlain, founder of Quebec, who described them in writing of his journeys, as roots ‘with the taste of artichokes’, ie. bottoms of the globe artichokes of Europe. That accounts for the artichoke in the name, though I wouldn’t say the likeness in taste was strong, unless they are dug and eaten immediately.

This new vegetable, held by some to be more suitable for pigs than men, was soon grown abundantly in France, and was recognized as a relative of the sunflower (which had been introduced from the New World some thirty years before), it was another of those plants whose flowerheads twist around with the sun. In 1617 a French merchant in London, John de Franqueville, who was greatly interested in plants and gardens, gave ‘two small rootes’ of artichoke to the English botanist John Goodyer. Goodyer planted them in his garden at Buriton, under the high Hampshire downs), and the two tubers flourished and gave him a peck of roots, ‘wherewith I stored Hampshire’, Goodyer said.

Can’t you imagine de Franqueville telling Goodyer that of course the plant was a girasol (a French as well as an English word), a heliotropium, a turnsol, whose flowers, if it produced any, would turn with the sun; and can’t you imagine Goodyer’s Hampshire neighbours discovering from him in turn that it was a ‘girasol artichoke’ they were planting, a name they quickly changed to ‘Jerusalem artichoke’, which at least sounded satisfactory and intriguing in a vague way, heliotropism and Indians across the water not meaning much to them?”

So why a wonder food, well Professor Cassells of UCC’s Dept of Plant Science, once explained to me that artichokes have the highest inulin content of any vegetable. Inulin helps to keep a healthy gut flora, balances blood sugar and introduces the good bacteria into our systems, it is particularly important after we’ve had a course of antibiotics which kill off all the beneficial bacteria as well as the baddies. They also contain Vitamin C, phosphorus and potassium and are a very good source of iron.

They unquestionably cause flatulence in some people, hence their nickname ‘fartichokes’, but its all to the good!

Now how to prepare and cook them. Jersusalem artichokes can be boiled, baked, stewed, braised, roasted, pan fried or deep fried. Some of the newer varieties like fuseau are quite smooth, but I’m very partial to an old variety that we’ve grown at Ballymaloe for ions. I’ve no idea of the name but the flavour is superb. They can be boiled like potatoes in boiling salted water but take less time. Drain and eat with a little butter or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and sea salt.

They also roast beautifully, just scrub, split lengthwise or cut into half inch rounds. Toss in a little extra virgin olive oil or duck fat and roast – they’ll take about 20 minutes.

Braising is another delicious way of cooking this versatile root. Peel and slice and pop them into a heavy casserole with just a little melted butter to toss the slices in, season, cover and cook on a gentle heat for 15 minutes or so, then turn off the heat and allow them to continue cooking in the residual heat.

Jerusalem artichokes cook unevenly so this is a good method.

They also make a terrific soup, gratin and of course puree, mash either on their own or mixed with potatoes or other root vegetables. They have a particular affinity with game but are also divine with shellfish, particularly scallops.

Jerusalem artichokes, like parsnips, also make delicious chips but they are very high in sugar so deepfry at 150-160C rather than 200C otherwise they will burn quickly.

From the gardener’s point of view, they grow to a height of five feet and have sunflower like flowers which twist to follow the sun. They can be used to create a hedge or some have used them to make a summer maze or labyrinth.

They are a favourite of pheasants so they are grown as food crops on many estates where they rear birds for shooting.

Interestingly they are complementary flavours – see pheasant with artichokes.

How to prepare – scrub well, peel with a swivel top peeler and drop into acidulated water (water with a dash of vinegar or lemon juice.) Like celeriac, salsify, scorzonera and globe artichokes they tend to discolour as you peel. Cook as soon as possible to preserve the vitamin content.

Roast Jerusalem Artichokes
The winter vegetable is particularly good with goose, duck or pheasant.
Serves 4 to 6

1lb (450g) Jerusalem artichokes, well scrubbed.
2 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A few rosemary or thyme sprigs, optional

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/ gas mark 6. Leave the artichokes whole or cut in half lengthways, if large. Toss the Jerusalem artichokes with the oil. Season well with salt. Bake in a shallow gratin dish or roasting tin for 20 to 30 minutes. Test with the tip of a knife – they should be mostly tender but offer some resistance. Sprinkle with thyme or rosemary. Season with pepper and serve.

Artichoke Soup with Rosemary – from Grow and Cook by Johann and Tom Doorley
Serves 4

2 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar
15 Jerusalem artichokes
3 cloves of garlic
1 onion
3 tbsp olive oil
2 sprigs of rosemary
850ml (1½ pints) chicken stock or water
Salt and pepper

Pour the lemon juice or vinegar into a big bowl of water. Quickly peel the artichokes and add to the water and lemon juice to prevent them from turning grey. Gently crush the garlic with the flat of a knife and remove the skin. Peel and slice the onion.

Pour the oil into a wide pot and put it on a medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, rosemary and artichokes. When the contents of the pot start to sizzle, cover with a lid and turn the heat to low. Let them cook away in their own steam, shaking the pot and stirring every 5 minutes or so. If during this time the onion starts to get too dark, add some of the water or stock; you need to let the vegetables colour a little, but not burn.

When the vegetables begin to soften, add half the water or stock and bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes, until the artichokes are soft. Let the soup cool a little, or add some more of the water or stock. Fish out the rosemary sprigs and puree the contents of the pot.

Return the puree to a clean pot and taste, seasoning as necessary. Thin the soup with the rest of the water or stock, bring back to the boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Serve.

Pheasant with Jerusalem Artichokes
Pheasant adore Jerusalem Artichokes, most of the large estates plant a patch specially as a treat for them. It seemed logical to cook them together, and indeed it turns out to be a very good marriage of flavours. Casserole roasting, the cooking method used here is a particularly good way to cook pheasant especially if its not in the first flush of youth.

Chicken or guinea fowl may also be cooked in this manner.

1 plump pheasant
25g (1oz) butter
salt and freshly ground pepper
900g (2lb) Jerusalem artichokes

chopped parsley or flat parsley sprigs

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4.

Smear a little butter on the breast of the pheasant and brown it in the casserole over a gentle heat. Meanwhile, peel and slice the artichokes into 1cm/½ inch pieces, remove the pheasant. Add a little butter to the casserole toss the Jerusalem artichoke slices in the butter. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle maybe a tablespoon of water over the top. Then replace the pheasant tucking it right down into the sliced artichokes so they come up around the sides of the pheasant. Cover with a butter wrapper and the lid of the saucepan.

Cook for a further 1-1¼ hours.

Remove the pheasant as soon as it is cooked, strain and de-grease the cooking liquid if there is need but usually there’s virtually no fat on it. The juices of the pheasant will have flavoured the artichokes deliciously. Arrange the artichokes on a hot serving dish, carve the pheasant into 4 portions and arrange on top.

The artichokes always break up a little – that is their nature. Spoon some juices over the pheasant and artichokes and serve scattered with chopped parsley or flat parsley sprigs.

Braised Jerusalem Artichokes
Serves 4

1 ½ lbs (675g) Jerusalem artichokes
1 oz (30g) butter
1 dessertsp. water
Salt and freshly-ground pepper
Chopped parsley

Peel the artichokes thinly and slice ¼ inch (5mm) thick. Melt the butter in a cast-iron casserole, toss the artichokes and season with salt and freshly-ground pepper. Add water and cover with a paper lid (to keep in the steam) and the saucepan lid. Cook on a low heat or put in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/regulo 4, until the artichokes are soft but still keep their shape, 15-20 minutes approx. (Toss every now and then during cooking.)

Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

If cooking on the stove top rather than the oven turn off the heat after 10 minutes approx. – the artichokes will continue to cook in the heat & will hold their shape.

Foolproof Food

Fluffy Lemon Pudding
This is an old fashioned family pudding which separates into two quite distinct layers when it cooks; it has a fluffy top and a creamy lemon base. This is a good time of year for lemons and other citrus fruit so make the most of them.
Serves 4-6

1 ½ ozs (40g) butter
9 ozs (250g) castor sugar
3 ozs (75g) flour
3 eggs (preferably free range)
2 unwaxed lemons
10 fl ozs (300ml) milk

icing sugar

1 x 2 pint pie dish

Cream the butter well. Add the castor sugar and beat well. Separate the egg yolks and add one by one, then stir in the flour. Grate the rind of 2 lemons, squeeze and strain it’s juice and add. Lastly add the milk. Whisk the egg whites stiffly in a bowl and fold gently into the lemon mixture. Pour into a pie dish and bake in a moderate oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 40 minutes approx. Dredge with icing sugar.

Serve immediately with softly whipped cream.

Hot Tips

Cookery Classes at Snugboro 2008

Rory O’Connell teaches Intensive 1 day classes at his home near Ballycotton, Co Cork, private classes or workshops for groups or individuals can of course be organized – corporate groups, friends, hen parties! All will be catered for. Tel 086-8516917

For anyone who wants to grow organically Bob Flowerdew provides the answers in a brilliantly accessible way in his new book Going Organic published by Kyle Cathie.

His commonsense, practical approach and easy to read style has endeared him to gardeners for over 20 years. He takes the readers through basic gardening techniques, common pitfalls, pest and disease problems and companion planting. A gem to get people started on the magic of growing your own – so get going and I’ll provide the cooking and salad ideas.

The organisers of Slow Food Limerick & Region are planning to offer monthly Slow Food events in 2008, starting on January 26th with Slow Food for Babies. Slow Food for babies will explore the Slow Food options available to young babies and toddlers, with a strong focus on local, fresh produce. How to best answer the nutritional requirements of babies and toddlers and what effect food can have on a child’s development will be the central issues looked at.

The event is kindly sponsored by the Hunt Museum and will take place in the Hunt Museum at 3pm – 4.30pm on Sunday January 27th and all are welcome.

For further information or bookings contact Josephine Page 087 9460490 or

The speakers are Dr Moya Stout, Psychologist and Julie Dargan, Nutritionist.

Grow and Cook

“Vegetable growing is addictive, what starts as a few herbs on a window sill can end up as a full-blown allotment habit” – so write Tom and Johann Doorley in the foreword of their new ‘Grow and Cook’ cookbook. Just what I want to hear in the first weeks of 2008. One of my many New Year resolutions is to incorporate a ‘grow some little thing’ of your own into each of my columns for 2008. As all good cooks know really yummy food is all about really fresh ingredients, beautiful crinkly Savoy cabbages, earthy carrots and celeriac, curly kale, knobbly Jerusalem artichokes, hardy Swiss chard, are all in season know. There are still a few Brussels sprouts around. Sprats and herrings should be in our waters about now. Look for them and treat yourself and your family to a top up of Omega 3 and anti-oxidants. Tom and Johann Doorley love their live in the country. This book is a diary of what they grow and eat through the months, their successes and learning curves. “Just as there are pessimists and optimists, there are two schools of thought about the month of January. Some of us find it a bit of an anti-climax as life returns to its more mundane rhythms after the excitement of Christmas. Others see the New Year as a fresh start bursting with opportunities”. Tom and Johann often find themselves somewhere in between. January is a month for curling up by the fire with seed catalogues, a time for planning and making lists. We all crave simple comfort food as an antidote to Christmas feasting, maybe chicken noodle soup made with some rich good broth from the turkey carcass. The recipe in Grow and Cook sounds irresistible. By now the Seville and Malaga oranges are in the shops so this is the time of year to make real marmalade. Tom and Johann have included a step by step guide which should be invaluable to those who are making marmalade for the first time. Winter is the citrus fruit season so this is the time of the year to make best use of all that family so you may want to try Tom’s Orange Cake and homemade orangeade. As already mentioned, root vegetables are at their best and cheapest right now so we use them often. The beetroot cake sounded intriguing so you may want to try that if you still have some beetroot. If not, substitute grated carrot in the recipe. Many people complain to me that their children won’t eat vegetables, I guarantee that if they help to grow, chop and cook them there is a much higher chance that they will tuck in. Tom and Johann have succeeded in bringing their kids into the garden and the kitchen, and several delicious recipes in this ‘labour of love’ including the Beetroot Cake and Amy’s Cheesy Bake, have been introduced by the children – quite a feat at a time when a growing number of adults, not to mention children have little or no idea or interest in how their food is produced – is it any wonder that obesity is our fastest growing health problem. ‘Grow and Cook’ by Tom and Johann Doorley is published by Gill & Macmillan.

A Greener new year

Up to a couple of years ago those of us who were even mildly concerned about global warming and the environment were considered to be eccentric and alarmist – how could a vast planet be affected by our lifestyles. Sounds incredible, but it unquestionably is, and we are all part of the problem. In the words of Al Gore, ‘it is an inconvenient truth’!How quickly this attitude is changing, one virtually can’t pick up a newspaper or magazine nowadays without being made aware in a myriad of worrying ways of the impact of global warming on our lives – Freak weather, water shortages, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, extinction of species……No matter how blasé one is, we can no longer ignore the scientific evidence. Now that I’m a granny I’m concerned not only about our children’s but also our grandchildren’s future.

Instead of living with gay abandon we would do well to emulate the philosophy of the native Iroquois people of North America who demand of their elders that they only take important decisions after considering the impact it may have on the seventh generation yet to come.

We can all make a difference in our own lives, we need to learn how to live within nature’s limits. Consumer demand for alternatives has meant that retailers, local councils, even governments, are starting to provide alternatives.

The demand for organic food is skyrocketing in the US and the UK and is fast being looked on not as a luxury but as a necessity. Waiting lists for allotments are at an all time high. Sales of herbs and vegetable seeds reached record levels last year as more and more people discover the joy and satisfaction of growing some vegetables or even a few herbs.

Its not just the food business that is responding to the challenge, top clothing designers and some of the world’s best known make-up companies are racing against time in a bid to ‘out-green’ their rivals. Almost overnight its becoming essential for politicians to show leadership on environmental issues.

So what can we do apart from recycling and changing to more energy efficient light bulbs. Well, we can make a decision to buy as much local food as we possibly can. It’ll be fresher, in season and healthier for us. There’s also the feel good factor of putting money back into our local economy, and the knowledge that we are contributing to reversing the decline of rural communities. This will reduce our carbon footprint and have the knock on effect of reducing emissions from ‘food miles’.

Not everyone will be persuaded of course but already young and old are discovering the joy of growing some of their own food, keeping a few hens, the food scraps from the house can be fed to the hens and come back as gorgeous eggs a few days later. The hen manure can go onto the compost to make the soil more fertile to grow healthy nutritious vegetables. How can throwing a ‘ready meal’ into the microwave compare with the joy and satisfaction of preparing a meal made from even some of your own home grown ingredients.

There is already a significant shift in attitude at grass root levels – five young couples in this area are keeping 2 free range pigs again, as well as growing vegetables and keeping hens, others are keeping bees. None are farmers but all are passionate about the food they feed to their families and have a strong desire to create an alternative life style that not only enriches their lives but also has a light carbon footprint.

Those of us who have a lawn or even a window box can grow something if we so choose. After all, 80% of the food grown in the city of Havana is grown within the city of Havana in an urban agriculture system. Cuba was of course forced into that situation initially by the political situation, but we are all, whether we like it or not, going to have to find a way to wean ourselves off our dependence on expensive fossil fuel and explore ways to relocalise our food system.

The enormity of the problem can seem overwhelming but even a small change in how we shop and eat can have profound and far-reaching implications – depending on how we use our energy and spend our food euro, we really can made a huge difference to the planet, our farmers and food producers – lets make this our resolution for 2008.

Happy New Year to all our readers.

Hot tips for a Greener New Year.

Buy ‘LOAF’ – local, organic, animal friendly and fairly traded.

Buy fresh local food rather than imported or processed food.

Avoid buying packaging which cannot be recycled or composted

If you don’t need it, don’t buy it.

Minimise your car journeys – keep yourself well supplied with milk, sugar or whatever you find yourself driving to the shop for.

Only boil as much water in the kettle as you need. (Eco shop stock special kettles for this purpose – see below)

Check out (currently at Glen of the Downs Garden Centre, Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow but moving to Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow early this month) Tel 01-2872914 Email:
Eco friendly and fairly traded, food and drink, babywear, clothes, home and garden needs ,toiletries, cleaning products, pet food, books, stationery and much, much more.

Buy seeds to grow your own –

Brown Envelope Seeds, Ardagh, Church Cross, Skibbereen, Co Cork – 2008 catalogue now available – Tel 028 38184,email:

Buy fruit and nut trees –

Irish Seed Savers Association, Apple and Pear Catalogue and seed catalogue available from Irish Seed Savers, Capparoe, Scariff, Co Clare Tel 061-921866 email:

Woodkerne Nurseries, Gortnamucklagh, Skibbereen, Co Cork – specializing in fruit and nut trees – Tel 028-23384

Bareroot trees available at Skibbereen Farmers Market (Saturdays 10-1) Bantry Farmers Market (Fridays 10-3)

Look up The Organic Centre, Rosinver, Co Leitrim for courses and training programmes Tel 071-9854338

Carrot and Cumin Soup

Serves 6 approx.

A little freshly toasted and ground cumin adds a Moroccan flavour to carrot soup.

2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds

45g (1½oz) butter

110g (4oz) onion, chopped

140g (5oz) potatoes, chopped

560g (1lb2oz) carrots, preferably organic, chopped

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

1.1l (2 pints) homemade chicken or vegetable stock

150ml (¼ pint) creamy milk, (optional)


A little whipped cream or yoghurt

Freshly ground cumin

Coriander leaves

Heat the cumin seed on a frying pan, just for a minute or two until it smells rich and spicy. Grind in a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan, when it foams add the chopped vegetables and cumin seed. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar and toss until coated. Cover with a butter paper and a tight fitting lid. Allow to sweat gently on a low heat for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables have softened slightly. Remove the lid. Add the boiling stock, increase the heat and boil until the vegetables are soft. Pour into a liquidiser add and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add a little creamy milk if necessary.

Garnish with a blob of whipped cream, natural yoghurt, crème fraiche or sprinkle with a little ground cumin and coriander leaf.

Note: If you would like a more pronounced cumin flavour, increase the amount of cumin seeds to three teaspoons.

Carrot and Coriander Soup

Substitute coriander for cumin in the recipe above.

Curly Kale and its Cousins

Kale is a wonderful vegetable and at this time of year is readily available in the Farmers Markets. Many people are nervous about buying it as they’re not quite sure how to cook it. It is highly nutritious and has cholesterol reducing properties.

Serves 4 approx.

450g (1lb) Curly kale, destalked (290g /10oz approx.) without stalks)

6 pints (3.4 L) water

3 teaspoons salt

Freshly ground pepper and a little grated nutmeg

55g (2oz) butter

125ml (4fl oz) cream

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, (6 pints (3.4L) to 3 teaspoons salt). Add the curly kale and boil uncovered on a high heat until tender; this can vary from 5-10 minutes depending on the weather.

Drain off the water, puree in a food processor, return to the saucepan, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a little nutmeg if you fancy.

Add a nice lump of butter and some cream, bubble and taste.

Serve hot.

Potato Tortilla – Tortilla de Patatas

Serves 6-8

In Spain you must understand, Tortilla is not just a dish it’s a way of life. Tortillas or flat omelettes not to be confused with the Mexican tortillas which is a flat bread, are loved by Spaniards and tourists alike. You’ll be offered them in every home, in the most elegant restaurants and the most run down establishments – no picnic would be complete without a tortilla and every tapas bar will have appetising wedges of tortilla on display. People even eat it at the cinema.

Tortilla de Patatas sounds deceptively simple but its not as easy to make to perfection as you might think.

8-9 eggs, free range and organic

14ozs (400g) diced potato (1.5cm)

6ozs (175g) diced onion

3fl oz (75ml) extra virgin olive oil

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp salt and freshly ground pepper

The secret of success is to use enough oil. Put a generous (2.5cm) 1 inch of olive oil into a frying pan. Fry the potatoes and onions in the hot oil for about 5-7 minutes. Add the crushed garlic and cook until the potatoes are golden on the outside and soft in the middle. Drain off the excess oil from the potatoes.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add a teaspoon of salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the potato and onion mixture. Put 2 tablespoons of oil back into the pan, when it begins to sizzle pour in the egg mixture then lower the heat, when the egg begins to cook, loosen around the edge continue to cook shaking the pan occasionally. When the tortilla is well set and golden underneath, cover the pan with an oiled plate and turn it out, be careful not to burn your hand. Add a little more oil to the frying pan if necessary. Slide the tortilla back in cooked side uppermost. Cook until firm but still slightly moist in the centre. Serve hot or at room temperature cut into wedges.


Why would you bother to make yoghurt? Well the yoghurt one makes at home with full cream milk is infinitely more delicious, unctuous and nutritionally complex than virtually anything you can buy plus it works out at about half the price and then there is the buzz you get from making your own!!

Yoghurt can be made from fresh milk but it must be thoroughly boiled first, and allowed to cool to lukewarm before use. The boiling is to destroy unwanted bacteria in the milk which could interfere with the bacterial action of the yogurt bacillus.

1pt milk (boiled or sterilized)

2 teasp. Plain yogurt

Warm the milk until lukewarm (or cool it to lukewarm if it has been bottled). Stir in the yogurt. Pour into a bowl or dish and put into a warm draught-free place until set. This usually takes about 14 hours. The cooler the temperature, the slower the yogurt will take, but too great a temperature will kill the bacillus and the yogurt will not form.

Yogurt can be set in a warm airing cupboard or boiler room, a very cool electric oven (set as low as possible) a vacuum flask with a wide neck or an insulated ice bucket. Or it can be made in a bowl set in a in a larger bowl of warm water, standing in the sink with the hot tap dripping steadily into the outer bowl

To keep the water warm, an earthenware pot with a lid, wrapped up in a warm blanket and put near a radiator will also do the job. The simple aim is to provide steady even warmth to allow the bacillus to grow. Remember to keep back 2 teasp. of your bowl of yogurt as the starter of the next lot.

Yoghurt with Honey and Toasted Hazelnuts

This is my favourite dessert when I eat at Isaacs Restaurant in Cork, its so popular they can never take if off the menu. Its delicious for breakfast also.

Home made yoghurt or best quality natural Greek style yoghurt

strongly flavoured local Irish honey

toasted hazelnuts, sliced

Serve a portion of chilled natural yoghurt per person. Just before serving drizzle generously with really good honey and sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts.

Yoghurt with dates, bananas and honey.

Add some chopped dates and sliced banana to the yoghurt and drizzle with honey.

Yoghurt with Honey and Cinnamon

Substitute freshly ground cinnamon for hazelnuts in the above recipe – simple and delicious.

Yoghurt with fresh fruit

Crush some fresh berries in season and fold into homemade or good quality natural yoghurt. Just before serving- you may want to add a little honey or sugar to taste.


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