I love markets. There’s something about the combination of fresh produce, crazy vendors and strange fruits and veggies that inspires me to cook with rare and interesting ingredients. Le français agree with me. Paris alone has several major food markets (namely marchés Bastille, Mouffetard, Saxe-Breteuil and the one on Rue Montorgueil). Parisians of all walks of life flock to them for fresh meat and fish, fruit and veg, and great cooking advice.
This week I went to South Melbourne market. In Melbourne we have a couple of nice food markets: the famous Queen Victoria Market in the CBD, Prahran market with all of its cheese, but my favourite is South Melbourne for its lively atmosphere and excellent range of everything from high-range olive oil, to fresh produce, to the perfect coffee. This week I resisted the huge salted caramel macarons and fresh seafood and instead went for the Jerusalem artichokes (topinambour) and beautiful fresh pears (poires) with the perfect easy Sunday meal in mind.
Jerusalem artichokes are funny looking things. They look a little bit like ginger root: very knobbly and beige in colour. Inside they are a creamy colour, and have a delicious buttery flavour. Apparently, they are not related to the artichoke at all. In fact the Jerusalem artichoke plant highly resembles a sunflower plant. The part you eat are the tubers. French explorer Samuel de Champlain sent the first samples of Jerusalem artichoke to France, describing them as similar in taste to artichoke. You could really do anything with them: fry them, put them in a salad; but today I’m making a soup.
This is a slight variation of a soup my Mum makes at home. It’s creamy, buttery and perfect on wintery days.
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup:
Cooking time: 20 mins prep + About an hour to cook
-750 grams Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), scrubbed and cut into chunks
-2 Tbs unsalted butter
-2 celery sticks, chopped
-2 garlic cloves, chopped
-1 cup milk (slight variation from linked recipe)
-1 Bay leaf (also slight variation)
-4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
-Salt and pepper
Scrub artichokes well. There’s a common misconception that they must be peeled, however so long as you scrub them well with a hard brush this can be avoided. Melt butter in soup pot and cook onions and celery until soft. Add garlic and fry until fragrant. Add a pinch of salt. Add Jerusalem artichokes, bayleaf and cover with stock. Bring the pot to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for about an hour until artichokes start to break down and are soft. Remove the bay leaf and puree the soup using stick blender or food mill, adding the milk as you blend it. Add salt and pepper to taste.
NOTE: I felt a little strange not adding many herbs to this soup, however it’s important to remember that the taste of Jerusalem artichokes is very subtle, and can be easily overpowered. My addition of a bay leaf enhanced the flavours, but I would avoid adding other herbs. If you wish to bring out the flavour more, you could add less celery, or avoid it all together. For extra creaminess, you could add cream too. Serve with crusty bread or my rainy day muffins.
Le Dessert: Poires pochées au Vin Rouge (Poached Pears in Red Wine)
Makes 4 Pears
Cooking time: 10 mins prep + 1 hour and 15 mins to cook + at least four hours in fridge (if you prefer chilled)
It’s always nice to celebrate (or mourn) the end of the weekend with a dessert. This is a really easy one that’s both foolproof, and elegant enough to pull of for a dinner party or social event.
My favourite part about Paris in winter is the Christmas markets. Tiny little cubby-house like shacks are draped in Christmas lights and sell everything from gorgeous gifts, to buttery crêpes and spiced vin chaud (mulled wine). They’re especially charmant (charming) when the city is under snow and you get a sense of a true white Christmas, something that we miss out on in Australia.
These pears could be done the night before a party or event, making them the perfect winter dessert. They are my homage to Parisian Christmas markets.
-4 peeled pears (Packhams work best, just-ripe)
-2 cinnamon sticks
-2 whole star anise
-2 cups dry red wine
-1/3 cup caster sugar
-1 vanilla bean, split
Combine wine, sugar and spices in saucepan big enough to fit pears. Over a low heat, stir until the sugar dissolves. Add pears and bring to the boil, then reduce heat and cook for an hour, turning occasionally to ensure the pear soaks up the wine. Once tender, put the pears in a heatproof bowl.
Increase heat to high and bring the wine to a boil. Stir for around 10 minutes or until the wine has thickened slightly into a syrup. Serve pears individually and pour over syrup. Serve with cream or ice-cream. Alternatively, you could make this rosewater-infused mascarpone from Taste.com.
If you’re after a more summery dessert, cover pears in syrup. Cover heatproof bowl in cling wrap and place in fridge for about four hours.
C’est tous! An easy two-course Sunday dinner that is très deliceux!