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Saturday, 9 March 2013

Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin with Thyme

This is another recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s excellent vegetarian cookbook Veg Everyday! 515 five star reviews on Amazon can’t be wrong.

‘Sunday mornings’ are a relatively new concept to me (it used to be that they were slept through), and they are becoming my favourite thing. Every few months or so, I meet up with some friends very early on a Sunday morning and we walk down to Queens Park for an enormous breakfast and a visit to Queens Park Farmers' Market. The market is fantastic, a great source for interesting and excellent quality vegetables, artisan cheese and baked things, fresh fish and meat. Best of all though, is being able to talk to the suppliers about their produce.

The London Farmers’ Market website is great for telling you where you local market is. It handily tells you what is in season too. Currently it is Rhubarb, purple-sprouting broccoli, and Jerusalem artichokes. Have a look at their excellent SayNay campaign, in response to latest foodie scandals – urging people to eat traceable meat from trusted suppliers. While I haven’t bought any of the meat at the farmers' market as it isn’t kosher, the meat stalls always intrigue me – even I, of little experience with cooking meat could see how brilliant it looked.

At my most recent visit to Queens Park Farmers’ Market, I got a little carried away - I bought apple and pear juice, fresh goat’s cheese rolled in a lemon-pepper crumb, sorrel (recipe coming soon), and a big bag of Jerusalem Artichokes. I love Jerusalem artichokes – they can be pretty hard to find but as they are in season now all of the growers at the market seemed to have them. They taste like globe artichoke hearts but look more like a knobbly potato. I have had them before roasted (quite good) and in soups (totally amazing), but this time I wanted to try something different. And who can resist a gratin? This was really delicious, and very straightforward to make. To be honest, the only tricky thing is peeling the artichokes without hacking off too much of the vegetable. Be warned – this dish is incredibly rich, even after I omitted all of the butter. Whatever you do, and however much you want to, don’t have seconds, trust me – you will regret it.

You will need a large frying pan with a lid that can also go under the grill.

Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced not too thin
500g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into roughly 3mm slices
About a handful of thyme – leaves only
100ml water
2-4 tbsp crème fraîche (depending on how rich/creamy you want it)
A handful of grated cheddar or other well-flavoured melting cheese, to sprinkle on the top
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the onion and lightly fry for about 10 minutes, until soft and beginning to colour.

Add the artichokes, thyme and the water, season and when it begins to bubble, cover the pan and turn the heat down low. Let the artichokes simmer for about 20 minutes until they are tender, stirring occasionally and adding a little more water if needed. [Pre-heat the grill when there is about five minutes left on this time]. Remove the lid and turn the heat up, simmering for a few minutes more if necessary to reduce the liquid to a thick glaze.

Taste the artichokes and adjust the seasoning if needed. Stir through the crème fraîche, scatter with cheese and grill for a few minutes until the gratin is bubbling. Luxury.

I served this with a filet of salmon, baked in a parcel of foil with some halved cherry tomatoes and few anchovy fillets draped over the top.  

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