|jerusalem artichoke soup with |
Your soup? Yes, my soup. I had been shopping, with a list. I need the list to keep me in check. It stops my wildest excesses and means I am likely to stick to a plan. But it comes with a caveat. The list must be adhered to at all times unless I am confronted with seasonal vegetables that send all my good intentions and menu planning to hell in the proverbial hand basket.
Which is why I had arrived home with a large brown paper bag bursting with knobbly brown Jerusalem artichokes and a great damp green bunch of spinach, without any clear idea of what I was going to do with either of them. Perhaps a gratin with the Jerusalem artichokes to accompany Sunday lunch? A spinach sauce for some fish, or a stuffing for pasta? What I certainly wasn't planning on doing was combining the two.
Which is where serendipity comes in and why I need a word that is serendipity-max, or perhaps extreme serendipity. I definitely want a word that describes culinary serendipity, with specific reference to the happy accident of two ingredients coming together in an unexpected and joyous partnership; that results in a meal that completely defines my mood. Is that too much to ask?
I was flicking through my copy of Nigel Slater's Tender I, A cook and his vegetable patch, the first of his weighty and rather wonderful tomes on growing vegetables in your garden and how to cook them. My eye was caught by a recipe title A new artichoke recipe. This intrigued me. How new could an artichoke recipe be? Really? Well it turns out, that in another case of culinary serendipity, Nigel Slater had put together a basic Jerusalem artichoke soup with leftover creamed spinach. "The magic in this soup" he says "is in the marriage of earthy cold-weather food and a shot of mood-lifting chlorophyll. Spring is obviously stirring".
I adapted my version as I added a tiny clove of chopped garlic (it goes with everything) and a sprig of fresh thyme (ditto). NS uses 2 leeks and I unfortunately only had one. Another trip to the shops would have meant another opportunity for me to ignore my shopping list. I restrained myself by replacing one of the leeks with a chopped onion!
Skill level: Easy
2 x large leeks, finely sliced (white and pale green part only) - or 1 leek and 1 chopped onion
1 x small garlic clove, very finely chopped
450g Jerusalem artichokes, roughly chopped
2 x bay leaves
a small sprig of fresh thyme
1 litre vegetable stock (you could use water or chicken stock)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g fresh spinach leaves (use large leaves rather than baby ones)
2-3 tbsp crème fraîche or double cream
a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
- Make sure the leeks are thoroughly cleaned under cold running water, to ensure any earth is washed away. Drain thoroughly before slicing.
- Melt the butter in a large heavy-based saucepan and add the leeks (or leek and onion mixture). They should be left to soften over a low to moderate heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir regularly.
- 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time, I add the garlic and stir it in to let it sweat with the leeks.
- Give the artichokes a very good scrub and rinse Some people peel them before chopping them, but I don't bother!
- Add the chopped artichokes to the leeks and stir well. Continue to cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the bay leaves, fresh thyme and stock. Bring to the boil and then turn to a low heat. Simmer (partially covered with a lid) for about 25 minutes, or until the artichokes are tender.
- Set aside and leave to cool before blending. Can I now repeat what I always say when making and blending soups - Do not try to blend when hot, as this can be dangerous, particularly if using a jug blender. A combination of hot soup, a build-up of steam and vibration, can cause the hot liquid to explode from of the blender. Safer to let the soup cool a little! Similarly, don't overfill the blender - it can erupt!
- Blend the soup until smooth, check the seasoning and set aside.
- Wash the spinach leaves and give them a shake to dry.
- Make the creamed spinach by melting the butter in a saucepan. Add the spinach leaves, over a low to moderate heat. Stir occasionally as the spinach softens in the butter.
- The spinach will give off liquid and from time to time, drain this liquid off. (If you press the spinach against the side of the saucepan with a wooden spoon, it will help to remove excess liquid).
- When you have removed as much moisture as you can (since you do not want watery creamed spinach), put in a blender together with the crème fraîche, a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg and a little salt. Whizz this together until smooth.
- Ensure that the soup is warmed through and ladle into bowls.
- Top with a generous dollop of creamed spinach.