Monday, December 21, 2009

Artichokes, f’artichokes !

A Taste of Garlic is a relatively new blog dedicated to introducing us to blogs about living in France. Keith wrote a very flattering account of our own blog (on 4th December) but did criticise us for not having many articles about cooking. Fair play to him: one of the principle rewards to a hard-working peasant-style life in rural Brittany is the pleasure taken in eating the most amazing home produce, the sort of thing that would make Michelin-stared restaurateurs weep.

We are the owners of a fair library of cookbooks, which are always useful to point us in the right direction. Although we adapt them, I’m not sure that we’ve ever invented a recipe unique enough to call our own. Rather than recipes, then, I’m going to suggest ideas. First off, a seasonal root vegetable called the Jerusalem Artichoke, topinambour in French and to anyone who’s encountered them, “F’artichokes”. Apparently, they make a tasty soup but, and this is a big BUT, they have an unenviable reputation for being wind-inducing. I was given some by Sébastien a while back and put them in the vegetable rack, mentioning them to Gabrielle. They were allowed to go rotten and were then thrown away (sorry, Séb).

I then saw some in a local market and bought a bag. Still no soup. More recently, we saw a recipe on TV for a winter salad using artichokes but, of course, with the usual windy caveat. This reminded me and when we were next shopping together, I came across these nobbly terrors once again and bought some more. I managed to persuade Gabrielle into using them this time, rather than her hoping I’d forget about them, so she could hustle them quietly into the compost bin. In fairness, Gabrielle’s reluctance is understandable as I am no stranger to the odd trouser-cough or botty-burp and anything with a tendency to accentuate this is clearly to be avoided. Resigned to serving them up, she came up with Carrot and Jerusalem artichoke soup in her current favourite cookbooks, Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook.

Sarah tells us that artichoke soup “is one of the most wind-producing things that you can eat.” So, far, so un-reassuring. She then goes on to suggest that, “if you mix artichokes with the same amount of carrot, you still enjoy the artichoke’s sweet flavour but without the same effect.” Gabrielle cooked it, I ate it. It’s a tasty soup but:
“Oops, I beg your pardon.”
“Excuse me” … sorry, Sarah, we don’t agree.

Click on the photo of the Jerusalem artichoke plants below for cultivation advice and interesting history of this tuber.

Next blog, something rather special, a good old kitchen standby raised to the level of the sublime: “spag bol” good enough to serve to royalty.