Jerusalem artichokes are one of those things I get awfully keen on at the beginning of the season, but I do find them quite intense as a flavor and texture, so they only make it onto my menu at home every few weeks or so. The thing is, there’s a definite ant-ness about their taste, don’t you think? Maybe, unlike me, you’ve never nibbled on a few as a childhood experiment, but I’m sure you know that taste, the telltale signal that ants invaded your $1 lolly mix as it lay, gaping and vulnerable, on the kitchen bench overnight. It’s not enough to put me off the otherwise-known-as sunchoke, mind – it’s quite pleasant, a kind of antsy tease, but it’s for that reason that I don’t dish these odd, knobbly little tubers up every night.
Peeling Jerusalem artichokes is undeniably laborious. Sometimes, if I have ones that are nice and clean to begin with, I just give them a very good scrub and leave the skin on. Or, like tonight, I parboil them and then kind of half scrape, half peel the skin off, cutting out any bad bits as I go.
This lovely wintry salad is a complete meal – a light one, which means you have more room for dessert afterwards. I’ve given rough quantities here to serve 2 adults.
Guided by their natural shapes, slice about 300g Jerusalem artichokes into pieces about the size of a ping-pong ball. If you come across a green one, like I did tonight, biff it. Parboil them in salted water. Drain and let cool a bit then go to work removing as much of the skin as you can, cutting out any black bits or holes. In a heavy-bottomed frying pan with a glug of olive oil, sauté the Jersusalem artichokes with 3 cloves of roughly chopped garlic. Here you can add a good splash of white wine and either some balsamic vinegar or some fruity balsamic glaze (this one is delicious, made with figs). Cook them for about 20 minutes over a medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile assemble the salad with washed and dried rocket leaves, very thin slices of red onion, fresh mint leaves, thin slices of pear (I only remembered these after the photo!). In another frying pan, without oil, gently sauté about 150g chorizo (the dry, cured type, or use salami) cut into small cubes until warmed through and a bit crisp on the exterior. Toss the sautéed, glazed Jerusalem artichokes and the chorizo through the salad, along with a pinch of flaky sea salt, then crumble over about 70g blue cheese. Drizzle over a generous amount evoo and a little balsamic vinegar and finish with a grind of black pepper.