So I got a bag full of “Jerusalem artichokes” (lucky me that I married into a family of horticulturists), and didn’t really know what to do with them (or what they were in the first place). Had someone told me that they are what we call in Germany “Topinambur”, I would have known that it is that miracle vegetable that they sell in Europe in small capsules to promote satiety, stabilise blood sugar, get your digestion going, and, yup, lose weight (don’t think my in-laws knew all that when they planted them!). A bit of research on my side revealed that these unsightly tubers, which, according to my husband, “smell like dirt”, neither originate from Jerusalem nor are they artichokes, but in fact, they belong to the family of sunflowers, and their Italian name “girasol articiocca” (sunflower artichoke) was spoofed by the English and became “Jerusalem artichoke”. I’ll use their alias “sunchokes” here as it’s shorter and saves me time, lazy me! (And with winter approaching, you can never have too many reminders of the sun).
Now I don’t know if you’ll really lose weight with these bulbs, but they are certainly delicious and satisfying, and my favourite way to consume them is to roast them in the oven, smothered in good olive oil – you don’t even need to use salt (and when I say that, that means something!!!). Now, because roasted vegetable is not really a recipe, and because I needed to improvise a dinner, and because I had brown rice to use up (I know brown rice has come under quite some criticism lately, but I had it and I am still here), I came up with an easy and frugal and, yup, delicious way to use up sunchokes and brown rice, so if you ever find yourself in the situation of having to use up Jerusalem artichokes and brown rice, here I come to your rescue!
I don’t know how I thought of the combination of risotto/sunchoke, it just came up to me,l but a quick internet search revealed that I wasn’t the first one to think it up, only the first one to make that whole thing vegan. In fact, the tubers add a lovely tang to the risotto, which is a great thing, given the minimalistic amount of spices that I use. They are also a great substitute for mushrooms, which are usually a staple for our risottos (though feel free to add them as well). I’ll also show you that a “vegan” risotto is just as delish as the classic version, and you don’t even need Arborio rice or stock! What, no stock??? Yes, that’s right. I actually don’t stock stock (pun intended), as it is such a hassle to make your own, but the store-bought versions always have junk in them (even if they claim they do not), so yes, I mostly cook without stock, heretic that I am, and it turns out every bit just as good! (I also cook mainly without garlic and onion, but that’s a different story.)
So what did I use then instead of stock? Water and wine – my two favourite drinks apart from coffee, but making risotto with coffee seemed a bit too experimental for me. Oh yes, I had white wine to use up too, so if you need to get rid of your sunchokes, brown rice, and white wine, here we go!!!
2-3 handfuls (or thereabouts) of sunchokes, washed well and cut into 2cm pieces (no need to take off the skins, but you are welcome to)
400 g brown rice
salt and pepper
500 ml white wine
100ml coconut milk plus more to serve
First, boil the rice in approx. 1,5 l of salted water until all water is absorbed and the rice is al dente (this should take 10-15 minutes). Heat enough olive oil in a Dutch oven or deep heavy skillet to cover the bottom. Add the par-boiled rice and stir until rice is covered with oil. Add 250 ml wine and wait until all wine is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Then add 250 ml water and wait till all is absorbed, 250 ml wine, and then again 250 ml water. Add plenty of tamari (you need the tamari to substitute the flavours of the stock). Add salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, cook the sunchoke pieces in olive oil or coconut oil until tender, about 10 minutes (you can also par-boil them in the microwave). Add the coconut milk and let bubble until the milk reduces and the sunchokes seem velvety. Mash like potato mash and stir into the risotto.
Let the risotto simmer for a few more minutes, and add some more coconut milk and coconut oil for that creamy richness that we love about risotto.