This is one of my favourite recipes from my cookbook – it’s a dish of meltingly soft, yet crispy tubers, with a hit of fragrant sharp lemon allied with garlicky butter. It’s a perfect autumnal dish, wonderful as a main for vegetarians and equally delicious as a side with turkey or chicken, which makes it an excellent multi-tasking addition to the Thanksgiving table this Thursday.
You may be surprised to know that they aren’t actually artichokes, but the tubers of a member of the sunflower family, which is why Jerusalem artichokes are known as sunchokes in America. Although the little knobbly tubers can look a little intimidating, they are prepared in exactly the same way as a potato. Peel and chop. Done.
Whilst they make the most delicious, velvety soups (try my recipe for Jerusalem artichoke soup with truffle oil & toasted hazelnuts here) and purees, they are also excellent when, as here, steamed and then fried, as the outsides go crunchy-crispy, giving way to a soft, yielding earthy middle, which contrasts wonderfully with the sweet pop of the peas. I use frozen petit pois (petite peas in America) in this dish as they are very tender and have a thinner skin.
I may as well also be up front about their, er, little surprise. They aren’t known as fartichokes in the Wilkins household for nothing. Do not serve these to anyone on a first date, unless you really want to make an impression.
(Cooks’ Note: Please don’t be tempted to skip the steaming stage, as I’ve seen suggested in several recipes from very well-known cooks who really should know better: I’ve tried this, and the artichokes will take at least 45 minutes to cook from raw in a frying pan, and will have barely reached tenderness even then.)
Ingredients (to serve 6 as a main course, or 8 as a side)
500g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into 1cm rounds
500gm petit pois (petite peas)
100gm salted butter
1 unwaxed lemon
2 fat cloves of garlic
2 generous tbsps olive or rapeseed oil
Steam the artichokes over a large pan of boiling water for approximately ten-fifteen minutes until they are al dente. (If you don’t have a steamer, simply boil them.)
Whilst the artichokes are cooking, put the peas in a bowl, preferably a metal one, and pour boiling water over them. Leave to one side. This is sufficient to defrost them without cooking further.
Zest the entire lemon, either using a zester, or use a small sharp knife to cut strips of peel. Then cut the lemon in half and squeeze out the juice into a small bowl, picking out any pips.
Peel and smash the garlic, and chop very small.
When the artichokes are done, pour the oil into a large frying pan, preferably one with high sides, placed over a medium-high heat.
Fry the artichokes for around fifteen minutes, until they are crispy on all sides. (Resist the temptation to keep moving them around continuously, as this will stop them crisping.) Drain the peas, and add them to the pan, with the lemon zest, garlic, butter and a tablespoon of lemon juice. Cook for a further five minutes, before serving.