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Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

creamy jerusalem artichoke & miso soup

In autumn, gluten free, soup on 22 May, 2011 at 11:47 pm

On Thursday afternoon my workmate approached me: “I’m so sorry I never brought you those quinces*, but to make it up I’m going to bring you a surprise tomorrow…” Turns out she’s just as bad as keeping secrets as I am at waiting to find out, and so I quickly discovered that the surprise was freshly dug Jerusalem artichokes from her garden. I’ve been looking forward to Jerusalem artichokes ever since summer, so this was heart-stoppingly exciting stuff. Also it may have been a slow day at work.

So on Friday morning I arrived at work to find, sitting on my chair, a plastic bag tied shut, full of what looked like moist, brown lumps. I did a double take and then remembered: the Jerusalem artichokes, so fresh out of the ground the dirt hadn’t quite dried. Best Friday morning ever.**

These knobbly, alienlike*** tubers aren’t from Jerusalem and they aren’t artichokes either; this combination of ugly looks and peculiar misnomer gives them sort of an oddball charm that I can’t help but love. I found out from Sasa (of Sasasunakku) they’re called topinambur in Austria, which is even more endearing, reminiscent of some awkward imaginary creature (we thought perhaps a round, brown, snuffly marsupial).

But enough about loving these things simply because they’re weird: they’re actually delicious. I only discovered this last autumn, when I had one for the first time as part of a tray of roast veggies at a friend’s potluck dinner. I haven’t looked back since. As long as I could get my hands on them last year, Jerusalem artichokes appeared on my plate. When cooked, they’re almost creamy in texture, nutty-sweet in flavour. You almost expect them to taste like potatoes and then you bite in, and your eyes pop open in a moment of “whoa”: expectations exceeded. Here is a short list of things you can do with these delightful nuggets:

  • roast them, either on their own or tossed into your usual roast veg mix
  • peel, cook & purée them in place of pureed potato or parsnip (also very good mixed in with pureed potato)
  • sauté them with herbs and butter
  • make soup

I love Jerusalem artichoke soup; it’s up there with roasting as one of my favourite ways of eating them. This time, though, I felt I had to do something a bit special, seeing as these Jerusalem artichokes were a bit special themselves, having been hand-dug and delivered to my desk and all. I saw this recipe for a creamy bamboo shoot & miso soup on Just Hungry**** and had this hunch that Jerusalem artichokes would go perfectly in place of the bamboo shoot.

And I was right: the nutty sweetness of the Jerusalem artichokes combined with the deep, salty-earthy miso flavour made every bite of this soup eye-poppingly good. I guess you have to like miso, though; my flatmate didn’t seem too impressed after one bite: “hmm, I can really taste the miso!”

I changed a couple of things from Maki’s recipe – because I wanted the flavour of the Jerusalem artichokes to stand out (and because the leek I had was massive) I upped the Jerusalem artichoke to 2 cups (chopped) and cut the leek by half. I also used Maki’s instructions for making this using uncooked rice, since I didn’t have any leftover cooked rice.

If, like my flatmate, you’re miso-averse, you may want to consider cutting the miso down to 1 tablespoon. Don’t omit it altogether, though – it really makes this soup something else.

*Girl lives in Featherston, has an ancient quince tree and evidently lots more exciting things growing in her garden. She promised to bring me quinces but we both seem to have forgotten… I’m so glad she remembered and felt she had to make it up to me, though!

**well, until morning tea time, when we had an amazing pineapple & brazil nut cake from Pandoro

***though not as alienlike as celeriac

****I may have mentioned it before, but it’s a great blog, with mostly Japanese recipes, written by a Japanese expat

CREAMY JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE & MISO SOUP:
(adapted from this recipe on Just Hungry)

8-10 Jerusalem artichokes (2 cups peeled & chopped)
1 tbsp butter
1/2 the white part of a leek, finely sliced
1 tbsp uncooked white rice
2 cups milk
2 tbsp miso 

Start with the most time-consuming and annoying part: peel the Jerusalem artichokes. Yes, it’s infuriating, because they’re so small and knobbly (I find a sharp paring knife works better than a peeler here, but up to you). Once that’s done, cut them up into fairly even-sized chunks; set aside.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the leek. Sauté over medium to medium-low heat. Don’t let it burn. Once the leek reaches that soft-translucent stage, add the Jerusalem artichokes and give everything a good stir; let it sauté for a couple minutes and add the rice along with 2 cups water. 

Turn up the heat to high until the water boils, then lower heat to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes until the water’s mostly evaporated and the Jerusalem artichokes are soft when stabbed with a fork. Transfer to a blender (or save use a stick blender – I couldn’t get mine to work, boo hoo!) and purée until smooth.

Return the purée to the pot and add the milk. Heat gently; patience and stirring are key. Once it’s heated through, add the miso: the easiest way to do this is to make a slurry with the miso and a ladleful of soup, and add this back to the pot. Stir and season with salt and white pepper to taste.

I ate this on its own, garnished with a bit of parsley and some sesame oil.

Makes 2-3 servings, depending on how hungry you are. It’s also gluten-free, for those who are so inclined.

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persimmon & cinnamon syrup

In autumn, desserts, drinks, gluten free on 19 May, 2011 at 5:39 pm


When I was younger I travelled a lot but ate very little (in terms of variety, not volume). I was one of those awfully picky eaters as a kid, and consequentially I have hardly any food memories of places I visited growing up. Imagine a France with no cheese, Japan with no sushi*, Germany where the only thing I remember eating is peanut butter sandwiches, a trip through the Welsh countryside without… I don’t even know what food there is to eat in Wales, because as far as I was concerned all that mattered was tinned spaghetti.

Clearly times have changed, judging by my trip to Singapore the other weekend, which I mainly spent wiping sweat off my brow in steamy hawker centres eating The Best chicken rice, trekking far from the nearest air-conditioning (this is bravery in 34 degrees and 100% humidity) to find my old favourite nasi lemak stall, taking a 2am stroll to eat some mighty fine bak chor mee before heading to the Arab Quarter to watch election results roll in over coconut shakes and shawarmas.

I started thinking about how much my food/travel relationship has changed because I’ve got this trip coming up where I have a daytime stopover in Honolulu. Besides the exciting possibility of a midday swim, my thoughts turned to what I should eat**… and… came up with nothing besides shaved ice and spam musubi. I’ve been to Hawaii before; surely this shouldn’t be so hard, I thought. Until I realised I was thirteen when I was last in Hawaii and I probably just ate pineapples and peanut butter sandwiches (always the peanut butter sandwich) the whole time. I don’t know, I can’t actually remember.

And basically this has been a very long-winded way of me getting back to the point of this blog post: persimmons. Back to Japan again for a moment: when I was sixteen I spent a year in Japan eating foods I would never have touched before, half out of politeness and half out of stubborn I’ll-show-you-ness (“bet you can’t eat natto/sashimi/basashi!” “I’ll show you!”). Somehow it turned out I actually liked most*** of what I was eating, and the most vivid memories from that year all relate to food.

Japanese culture, at least as I know it, places a big emphasis on the seasons.**** And in autumn, you celebrate the harvest moon by eating tsukimi udon and, among other fruits, you eat a lot of persimmons. One of my (many) favourite memories of autumn in Japan was coming home from school to a plate of exquisitely honey-sweet persimmons, cut up, stuck with toothpicks. So every time autumn rolls around and persimmons show up on supermarket shelves I get really excited and a little bit wistful for that time in my life when I couldn’t shake that wide-eyed feeling of just having discovered The Most Delicious Food In The World.

Usually I just eat persimmons plain. But I’ve been dabbling in making syrups and sauces lately, and for months now (yup, I was excited) I’ve had this post-it note stuck to my computer at work with two words scrawled across it: Persimmons. Cinnamon. I think the combination sprung to mind because I liked the way the words sounded together. (Clearly the best method of combining foods. Oh, and they’re also on that same brown-orange colour continuum.) But actually, they’re both autumn-y flavours, and sort of soft and warming, so the combination works.

You could make the syrup the long way (making juice from the fruit and then combining it with water and sugar to make a syrup and then straining it a couple of times through a cheesecloth so that it’s nice and clear) but if you’re short on time/energy this shortcut method (just simmering the fruit until it starts to break down a bit and the flavours permeate the syrup) works too. It’s so good in cold drinks and on ice cream and desserts and if you save the leftover stewed persimmon, it’s positively swoonworthy.

 

*Actually, Japan without sushi would be fine. There’s so much other good food there, too, but still. I can’t believe how much I missed out on during those early trips.

**If anyone knows of any must-eat foods or must-visit lunch spots in Honolulu, please share!!!

***Not so much the raw horse, it tasted fine (rather meaty) but I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat it again.

****Come to think of it, this might be the root of my near-obsession with seasonal fruits and vegetables. And seasons in general.



PERSIMMON & CINNAMON SYRUP: (the cheat’s version, anyway)

Cut about 300g persimmons (2-3, depending on size) into cubes and place in a saucepan with 130g sugar and a couple of broken-up cinnamon sticks.* Add 2/3 cup water and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until it reaches, well, a syrupy consistency. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl or jug and pour into a sterilised bottle. Done!

Now, what to do with this syrup? For starters, you can mix it with sparkling water for a refreshing drink. I can imagine it’d be good mixed into a rum-based cocktail too, something about those warming cinnamony undertones. Or you can pour it on ice cream, mix it into yoghurt, just about anything really.

Oh, and keep the strained, stewed fruit: it’s incredibly soft, sweet and infused with a cinnamony tingle. Perfect on porridge, or with yoghurt or custard. Definitely don’t throw it out (you’ll have to pick out the bits of cinnamon stick, though).

*It’s well worth using cinnamon sticks for this rather than powdered cinnamon. The flavour is more intense and you’ll retain that sunset-orange persimmon hue: they won’t turn the liquid brown like the powdered stuff might.

PERSIMMON & CINNAMON COULIS:

Here is a bonus recipe, because the first time I tried making this I accidentally pushed the fruit through the sieve and ended up with something that was more of a coulis than a syrup.

It’s hardly a recipe: basically, do as for the syrup, but use a bit less water (or simmer longer), remove the cinnamon sticks at the end of cooking, then purée (a stick blender works great here) and strain through a sieve. It’ll be a bit thicker than the syrup. And it’s awesome on French toast.