Sun chokes, penne, truffle and egg

We went to the market in the coastal town of Dieppe recently with the idea to buy some fresh and relatively cheap fish, some local cheeses such as the Neufchatel and the Réo raw milk Camembert and to have lunch at the Le Turbot restaurant there.

However, when we arrived from the Paris area the fish stalls on the quay were already cleaning up because it was after midday. On the ‘normal’ market, I did find some plaice and we also ran into a stall that sold a large variety of potatoes and other root vegetables such as the sun choke or Jerusalem artichoke. I have already related in an earlier post that the Jerusalem part of the name is a distortion from the word Girasol, which is Spanish for sunflower. The chokes, which originate from the Americas, are the root of a plant in the sunflower family.

In France they are called topinambour. Both the potato and the sun choke were introduced to France by Antoine Augustin Parmentier (1737-1813), an apothecary, agronomist, nutritionist and military, who both under king Louis XVI — beheaded during the revolution in 1793 — and later, aimed to find new foodstuff to feed the hungry and the army . A “Parmentier” in French cooking usually means an oven dish of meat with a layer of potato mash on top. His grave can still be seen on the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

In Dutch, a potato is called an “earth apple” and a sun choke an “earth pear” – both fruits from the ground. The Germans call the former a Kartoffel, from tuber, and the latter Topinambur.

The second part of the English name is due to the taste, which is very similar to the artichoke and like its namesake this vegetable also tends to turn brown after peeling and needs to be kept in water with vinegar or lemon juice.

We bought a kilo of the chokes because they can be stored for a long time in a dry and dark place.

Jerusalem artichokes contain inulin, a kind of sugar which is good for diabetics because it does not produce glucose in the body. It contains calcium, silicon, iron and sodium and helps to alleviate rheumatism and gout. Because they have a high dose of the pre-biotic FOS (Fructo Oligo Saccharide) they improve the gut flora and counter constipation. Jerusalem artichokes are industrially used as a source of fructose and can be found in fruit juices.

I decided to marry the subtle flavour of the topinambour with another fruit from the earth, or tuber  – the black truffle. In this case, I used two small truffle parts from the Cahors area in a glass jar.

Ingredients

  • 500 grammes of Jerusalem artichokes
  • 200 grammes of dried pasta (penne)
  • Two small truffles (12.5 grammes)
  • Two eggs
  • Salt and pepper

Steps

  1. Wash the Jerusalem artichokes.
  2. Fill a pan with salted water and bring to the boil.
  3. Add the sun chokes and cook for 30 minutes.
  4. Take the chokes from the pan and let them cool down.
  5. Prepare another pan with salted water (the used water has turned a greyish green) and bring to the boil some 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
  6. Peel the artichokes and slice them.
  7. Put the pasta in the pan with boiling water and cook for 10 minutes, then put the contents of the pan through a colander.
  8. Mix the artichokes and penne in an oven-proof serving dish, sprinkle with truffle shavings and put aside in the oven at a low temperature (50 °C) until serving.
  9. Break the eggs individually and either poach or fry them.
  10. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

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