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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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  1. Very excited to read this recipe! I have a package of sunchokes (what they are also called) but have not done anything with them yet. I read that they are extremely nutritious and is a good source of iron and potassium. It is also high in fiber and it contains inulin, which helps feed probiotics in the gut and does not spike up blood sugar like other carbs. You can even eat it raw, just slice and put in your salad or just munch on them when you get a sugar craving!

  2. I’m a huge fan of Jerusalem artichokes and wait eagerly for when they come into season – which is now! I’ve only ever had them roasted and sauteed. Seeing that there’s always a big pack of miso paste in my fridge, I reckon Jerusalem artichoke and miso soup is going to be on the menu soon. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Mum: Hi, I know it’s you. Thanks for the info, sounds very nutritious!

    allsugarspice: I’m so excited about Jerusalem artichoke season, too. Yum!

  4. Mmmmm…. that sounds delightful :)

    I must admit I’m a bit afraid of artichokes in general because I fumbled alot trying to cook them last year. Basically I peel off the leaves and I am not sure what the heart is (silly I know!) but since Jerusalem artichokes appear to be totally different – I might just give this one a shot. Tried looking for it today but couldn’t find it in the supermarket! Will hunt again.

  5. They are irritating little things to peel, aren’t they?! But soooo worth the effort. I love Jersualem artichoke soup, and I would definitely give this version a try, since I also love miso soup. Mmmm, wonder if Jerusalem artichokes will still be around when I get back – hope so. Also you have a fantastic trip away – sounds like you have a whole lot of travelling ahead of you!!
    Sue xo

  6. Thank you for this informative post. I’ve never eaten jerusalem artichokes and for some reason I assumed that because they look a bit like ginger, that you would use them sparingly like ginger too. Now I know they are to be used like any other root vegetable. Not so daunting. I will keep an eye out for these knobbly things.

  7. I’ve never tried them! Alas! Nutty and creamy sounds so delicious too. I love adding miso to soup – ran out of stock one time and tried that instead and rarely do anything else now.
    Also, I love your spoon. Not sure if that sounds strange, but it really is a cool spoon :)

  8. I love that spoon too! And I also look forward to Jerusalem artichoke season — half-and-half with potato mash is my favourite. I’d love to grow them, but I hear they’re really invasive, so not good for my tiny space… maybe I’ll try planting some in a bag.

  9. Topinambur! My little topinambur, how I love you with your little pocket and huge eyes ;P

  10. This looks nice! I haven’t had Jerusalem artichokes this year, yet :-).

    Ciao
    A.

  11. I love these artichokes but they are a bit of work peeling them don’t you think? It’s great you have a friend growing them, I have only seen them in the store once in NZ.

  12. Mel: keep a look out! they’re totally different from normal artichokes, way less fumbly (though still troublesome to peel in their own way) – give it a shot!

    Sue: such a pain to peel, but I know – the reward is worth it. (ps. been loving reading about your trip too!)

    Bunny Eats Design: definitely not daunting, totally delicious :)

    hungryandfrozen: this was my first time using miso in (non-miso) soup and I loved it… good to know it works in others, too! (ps. thanks, I love that spoon too, got it for 50 cents at an op shop in Newtown, score!)

    Five Course Garden: My workmate who grows them in the Wairarapa said she knows of a guy who planted some alongside a riverbed and they just spread – rumour has it there’s thousands. So yes, maybe planting in a bag would be a good idea ;)

    Sasa: squee! :)

    Allessandra: Thanks :)

    Alli: yep, peeling them is a chore! They usually have them at Moore Wilson’s down here when in season, and I’ve been seeing them at New World too – keep your eyes peeled maybe? Or I wonder if they don’t grow as well up that way?

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