Topinambour or Jerusalem artichoke?

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FFB market 009

Topinambour or Jerusalem artichoke is a root vegetable and cultivated widely for its edible tuber. Although they are called Jerusalem artichokes they have no relation to Jerusalem, and it is even not a type of artichoke, though both are members of the daisy family. 

Now I know all these facts but until yesterday I didn’t have any fainting idea what the hell topinambour, excuse me, Jerusalem artichoke is. But yesterday I was given a kilo from my neighbour (he has been cultivated for years) saying the next–My wife is a nurse and she always uses topinambour as a remedy for diarrhea or abdominal pain- and he handed the certain things to me. 

 But when he saw my puzzled face he realized that I needed some useful cooking instructions urgently so he continued like that: -You can scrub and roast them whole, like mini jacket potatoes and split them open, drizzled with a little chilli oil. You can even use them in a salad with smoky bacon. And be aware of it that the Jerusalem artichoke’s best friends are sage, thyme, butter, bacon, bay leaf, cream, breadcrumbs, cheese and anything smoked.
 By the way in Baden-Württemberg, where I come from (in Germany), over 90% of the Jerusalem artichoke crop is used to produce the famous spirit called “Topinambur“, “Topi” or “Rossler”. (From the 19th-century Jerusalem artichokes were being used to make a spirit called “Jerusalem artichoke brandy,” “Jerusalem artichoke”, “Topi”, “Erdäpfler” “Rossler” or “Borbel.”). I always keep some drink at home so if you have time now please come over and let it taste!-First I was hesitating for a while but then the curiosity was burning me so much so I couldn’t resist to the temptation on a sip of drink. To cut my story short the brandy smelled fruity and had a slight nutty-sweet flavour. It had an intense pleasing earthy note. Of course Herr Imsel (my neighbor) knew a lot about the process of the production of the drink: -The tubers are washed and dried in an oven before being fermented and distilled. It can be further refined to make “red rossler” by adding Common Tormentil, and other ingredients such as currants, to produce a somewhat bitter and astringent decoction. -To our health! -he raised his glass finishing “the lecture” and we clinked!
FFB market 014Then I made a research on the internet what is the best way to deal with the topinambour and first I’ve made Chicken thighs with chicory and topinambur purée

Ingredients: For the chicken: 2 tsp sunflower oil 25g (1oz) unsalted butter, 8 chicken thighs (bone in, skin on), 4 fat heads chicory, halved lengthways 400g (14oz) shallots, peeled, 250ml (9fl oz) chicken stock, 3 sprigs thyme, plus extra to serve

For the purée: 750g (1lb 10oz) Jerusalem artichokes, good squeeze of lemon 225ml (8fl oz), double cream, 50ml (2fl oz) chicken stock, 25g (1oz) butter, grating of fresh nutmeg and 2 teaspoons thyme

Heat the oil and butter in a wide heavy-based sauté pan and brown the chicken on all sides, seasoning with salt and pepper. Make sure you don’t burn the fat. Remove the chicken and set aside. Now sauté the cut side of the chicory in the fat – you want it tinged with gold – then remove and set aside. Add the whole shallots to the pan and colour those. Put the chicken back in and add the stock and thyme. Bring to the boil then immediately turn the heat down low, cover and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes. Add the chicory to the pan – try and arrange everything in a single layer – and cook for a further 15 minutes. Make sure there is still stock left to cook the chicory. If there is too much liquid leave the lid off so it can reduce. If necessary add more stock, but don’t drown the chicory. The dish is cooked when the juices in the chicken run clear and the chicory is tender. Taste the liquid before seasoning – because it is reduced stock you shouldn’t need salt. To make the purée cut the Jerusalem artichokes into chunks; I don’t bother to peel them but you can if you want. As you cut them, drop them in a pan of cold water to which you have added a good squeeze of lemon (this stops them discoloring). Bring the water to the boil and cook the artichokes until tender. Drain and put back on the heat with the cream, stock, butter, nutmeg and some seasoning. Heat through then purée in a blender. Taste for seasoning, and judge whether you need to add any more cream or stock (or water) for texture. Spoon a generous helping of purée on to each plate and put a portion of the braise on top. Decorate with fresh thyme leaves.

FFB market 012Then I prepared Panko crusted shrimp with topinambour salad

Ingredients: 2 tbs mayonnaise, 2 tbs creamy dill mustard, 2 tbs capers, chopped, 2 egg whites, salt, 2 cups of panko, cayenne pepper, 1-2 cloves of garlic, 1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined and butterflied

for the salad: 200 g topinambour, 8-10 sorrel leaves, 1 salad onion, 1\4 teaspoon sugar, 1-1.5 tablespoons wine vinegar, 2-3 tablespoons salad oil, 1 tablespoon hot water
salt, pepper to taste

1. Mix together vinegar, sugar, water, salt and pepper. Whisk in oil until smooth.
2. Cut salad onion into thin quarters and drizzle dressing over it. Set aside.
3. Meanwhile scrub the topinambours and grate it into a bowl.
4. Rip the sorrel into small pieces.
5. In a large bowl toss the sorrel and topinambour with onion dressing until evenly coated

For the dressing: Stir together mayonnaise, mustard and capers in a small bowl for dipping sauce, set aside.

For the shrimp: 1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

2. Whisk eggs with 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a shallow dish until frothy.

3. Toss together crumbs, cayenne, garlic. Dip shrimp in egg whites, dredge in panko crumbs, and place on a rimmed baking sheet.

4. Bake until shrimp cooks through and crumbs turn golden, about 12 minutes.

It was so good we couldn’t stop eating!

The origin of the name is uncertain Jerusalem artichoke in English,  topinambour in German… Allegedly Italian settlers in the USA called the plant girasole, the Italian word for sunflower), because of its resemblance to the garden sunflower. Over time, the name girasole may have been changed to Jerusalem. Another explanation for the name is that the Pilgrims, when they came to the New World, named the plant with regard to the “New Jerusalem” they believed they were creating in the wilderness. The English later corrupted girasole artichoke (meaning, “sunflower artichoke”) to Jerusalem artichoke. There have also been various other names applied to the plant, such as the French or Canada potato, topinambour, and lambchoke. Sunchoke. The German version  “topinambur” to a 17th century coincidence at the Vatican (in 1615) when a sample of the tuber from Canada was on display, as having helped French Canadian settlers to survive the Winter; at the same time a member of the Brazilian coastal tribe, the Tupinambá, was also visiting. The New World connection evidently resulted in the name for Jerusalem artichoke now used in Spanish, German, Romanian and French.


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