Asked to prepare a dinner for local wine-makers in the depths of a Burgundian winter is a challenge. The guests all possess super-human senses of smell, and taste. They eat and drink for a living, and the garden is producing little at this dank time of year. So what to do?
Digging over some beds to keep warm and take on a little sport, the tubers of Jerusalem artichokes appear like forgotten treasure. "That's where I planted them!" Bursting forth in spindly yellow flowers in the summer months, this relative of the sunslower goes to ground in the winter reproducing countless iron-packed tubers. Leave a morsel behind when digging and rest-assured next year you will have kilos of the things.
Providing a sweet and nutty flavour this humble root, a favourite in France during the hard times of WW2, is delicious in soups. At this time of year there are plenty of muscles at the fishmongers and with a few stubborn sprigs of time still pushing in the herb garden it was time for a soup.
500 g Jerusalem artichokes
1 onion, chopped
1 small leek, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
reserved liquid from mussels
500 ml vegetable stock
6 tbsp cream
salt & white pepper to taste
Peel the Jerusalem artichokes and cut them into smaller chunks. Peel and chop the onion, leek and garlic as fine as you can.
In a medium pan warm the olive oil over gentle heat. Add the Jerusalem artichokes, onion, leek and garlic. Cook on medium heat for about five minutes until slightly softened (do not brown).
Wash and de-beard the musels and add to a large pot. Pour in a cup of white wine and a sprig of fresh thyme. Cook covered over a medium heat until all are open. Drain off the liquid.
Add the reserved mussel liquid and vegetable stock to the other ingredients bring back to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the cream, and then whizz in the blender until smooth.
Serve with the set aside mussels and garnish with fresh thyme.