Monday, 4 February 2013

Palestine Soup

Palestine soup has nothing whatever to do with Palestine. It seems to have been given that name because it’s made with Jerusalem artichokes. Jerusalem artichokes have nothing whatever to do with Jerusalem and aren't artichokes. Anything that odd just has to be good. In fact, it’s one of my favourite vegetable soups and it so happens that it’s also very easy to make and, thankfully, low in fat.

I first came across Palestine soup in cookery books dating back to the early 1900s, but I think the dish is a fair bit older than that. Most recipes combine the Jerusalem artichokes with turnips or potatoes, which maintain the creamy white colour of the finished soup. I like to add carrot, which provides a nice touch of sweetness but does change the colour. (Unless you can find a heritage variety of white carrot).

A few years ago, Mark Hix published a Palestine soup recipe with some hazelnuts added, inspired by Auguste Escoffier’s ‘Purée de Topinambour’. The hazelnuts enhance the flavour of the Jerusalem artichokes beautifully, so I've borrowed that idea. Clearly Escoffier knew what he was talking about – as does Mark Hix, of course.
Palestine Soup
This will make 3 hearty lunch portions or will serve 4 to 6 as a starter.

½ onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, medium-sized
1 heaped tbsp uncooked basmati or long grain rice
300 ml vegetable stock
150 ml milk (semi-skimmed is fine)
300 g Jerusalem artichokes, prepared weight
Small handful of shelled hazelnuts
A little lemon juice

Add a small amount of oil to a pan and cook the onion gently for at least five minutes until it starts to soften without colouring. Meanwhile, peel and slice the carrots finely. Add the carrot and rice to the pan and pour over the stock and milk. Cover the pan, bring to a simmer and let it gently bubble away for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and slice the Jerusalem artichokes quite finely. Place the slices into water with a little lemon juice added to prevent discolouration. At the end of 20 minutes simmering, add the Jerusalem artichokes to the pan, season with a little salt and pepper (white pepper is best to maintain the colour), cover the pan again and bring back to a simmer. Keep the pot simmering for another 10 – 15 minutes or until the carrots and artichokes are tender.

Meanwhile, lightly toast the hazelnuts. You can do this in a dry pan over a low heat or simply place them in a medium oven for 4 or 5 minutes. Be careful to avoid burning them.

Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool a little. Add the toasted hazelnuts and liquidise. If you're being very fussy, you can pass the soup through a fine sieve, but I don't usually get that fussy.

Adjust the seasoning and add a dash of lemon juice if it needs it. Croutons are good with this soup, if you fancy them, and a sprinkling of parsley does no harm either. Many recipes finish this soup by adding cream. That does give it a touch of luxury, but I really don't think the soup needs it and I prefer to keep it low in fat.
Jerusalem Artichoke Plants
By the way, Jerusalem artichoke plants are rather like spindly, slightly unsuccessful sunflowers. They’re easy to grow but, since the plants can be very large (10 – 15 feet tall is not unusual), you’ll need a fair bit of space.

14 comments:

  1. I don't think I have ever eaten a Jerusalem artichoke, never mind cooked with one. Thanks for inspiring me, I will seek them out, the soup sounds delicious.

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  2. I'm a big fan of Jerusalem artichokes, but as CT isn't, I don't get to eat them that often. When I do it's usually soup. Next time I shall make an exotic Palestinian soup following your lovely recipe. I can see hazelnuts would go well, but never would I have thought of adding rice. They are beautiful plants though and even though I rarely dig them up, I can't bring myself to get rid of them.

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  3. That sounds a really interesting and delicious soup. I've never seen a Jerusalem artichoke here in South Africa but I am bookmarking this to try when I get back to the UK one day.

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  4. Have masses of Jerusalem artichokes in the garden will certainly try this soup out. Thanks Diane

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  5. I love the colour of this soup. It makes me think 'Spring'!

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  6. This must be delicious, full of goodness and flavour. I love the colour, very attractive!

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  7. Love the name topinambour, and I love hazelnuts and soup, so this is a really good one to try. I often add a little rice to carrot soup and it does help the texture.

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  8. Love Jerusalem artichokes. Your soup looks colourful and delicious, and just the thing for these cold days. Will look out for some.

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  9. The flavor combinations here look so inspiring Phil, a wonderful way to use and flavor Jerusalem artichokes, look forward to trying this, thank you !

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  10. I have made this several times in the last couple of months. It is a fantastic recipe, thanks so much. Have a great week. Diane

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    1. So glad you liked the soup - as I said, it's definitely one of winter favourites. A very underrated and underused vegetable I think.

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  11. If you read the beginning of Gryll Grange, by Thomas Love Peacock, you will get an amusing explanation of the origin of the soup's name. The book is great fun so continue reading. Probably the easiest way to get the book is from the Gutenberg Project, where you can download it for free.

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    1. Thanks for that. I have downloaded and read the passage in question and I think it's fair to say that the Reverend Doctor Opimian's theory of the misnomer is probably the correct one in the opinion of most gardening reference books. There are other theories but they're not as interesting. I do think that Squire Gryll's example of a misnomer is of more relevance to today, though: 'a gang of swindling bankers is a respectable old firm'. Plus ça change...

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