Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Root of All Eating

"Tortilla" di Topinambur, Farina di Ceci & Cipolla Rossa
Topinambur, Gram Flour & Red Onion Tortilla

Call it "Topinambur", call it a "Jerusalem Artichoke" or a "Sunchoke"... call it what you will- just make sure you call if you decide to cook them and I will be there! I probably cook these little beauties as seldom as anyone else and each time I do, I always think to myself "I really must make these more often!" 

Gnarly little critters they are, but kinda pretty with that "stripey looking" magenta and white coloring, but although they are so eye-catching, we always seem to pass them by. I love their flavor, which really does remind you of artichoke and is so unique. The only thing I don't usually love is peeling them, as they are always of such an irregular shape. Which, apart form the fact that they look prettier with the skin on, was why I didn't peel them this evening!

So, what got transformed into this wonderfully supper this evening was as you can see, some gram (chickpea) flour, 4 topinambur roots, a red onion, a little yogurt and some fresh arugula or rocket- depending on what they call it wherever you might live! The seasoning was simply salt and pepper... a little honey, sesame oil and some sesame seeds rounded it off- but that was all there was to it... and as simple as it was, or rather BECAUSE it was as simple as it was, the result was absolutely delicious!

The first step was to stir together 5 tablespoons of gram flour and 5-6 tablespoons of plain yogurt. I seasoned it rather generously with salt and pepper, as this would be what the topinambur would be baking in, so it needed to impart flavor to it. I simply stirred it together until it became a smooth paste.

I then added the thinly sliced red onion and the topinambur, which I really cut as thinly as I could and stirred everything thoroughly into a thick pasty mass... pretty sticky-looking isn't it? Well, do you know what? It IS! In fact it will be very sticky- but that is all part of the deal and it is also the reason that there will be no eggs necessary for this dish... pretty cool, eh?

I then spooned the mixture into a non-stick frying pan, which was lightly coated with sesame oil. I pressed and smoothed the mixture down and then popped the frying pan onto the stove top whilst I turned on the oven.

With the heat set to a moderate level, I began to slowly build up the heat in the frying pan and to get the topinambur and gram flour to cook from the bottom upwards. Of course you can not stir this, but what you can do is to keep pushing the sides gently inwards to keep things in shape and after 5-6 minutes, you will begin to small the wonderful aroma of chick peas roasting... mmm! But remember to keep the lid on the frying pan, so as to keep the heat trapped and to force the topinambur to steam and cook in the trapped moisture.

I then transferred the frying pan from the stove top to the oven, set to 350°F for a further 25-30 minutes, keeping it covered with some aluminum foil for the first 10 minutes or so, again, to keep in the moisture so as to get the topinambur cooked properly. Well, of course the gram flour and the onion too- but you know what I mean! ;-)

After 10 minutes, I took the pan out, added a drizzle of sesame oil, honey, salt and pepper and then popped it back in for 10 minutes... although it was beginning to smell so good I was getting impatient!

After around 25 minutes in the oven, the flour had turned firm and crispy, holding everything together and the honey was bubbling up with the sesame oil in a very fine foamy coating... which was just screaming out for me to sprinkle it with sesame seeds... and who was I to say no?

On they went and plenty of them and back into the oven for the final 5 minutes or so under the broiler... so easy and so good!

I enjoyed mine with a scattering of fresh arugula and a drizzle of plain yogurt- just for some added freshness and smoothness... talk about the very best of all possible worlds!

The flavor was richer and more well-rounded than I had actually imagined, which was great! The salt, pepper, sesame and honey did the trick, but of course the mildly nutty flavor of the topinambur and the toasted chickpea flour were the stars of the show!

A simple, inexpensive and delicious little dish for you... well, for me actually! But if you want to make it for yourselves... at least now you know how!

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