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The Kitchen Garden: Root course

PUBLISHED: 09:35 19 January 2016 | UPDATED: 09:35 19 January 2016

Knobbly artichoke roots

Knobbly artichoke roots

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Linda Duffin shares her passion for growing and cooking her own. January’s harvest includes Jerusalem artichokes

It was love at first sight when we were sent the estate agent’s details for what is now our Suffolk home. The house was beautiful, a rambling and rather ramshackle Tudor abode approached by a footbridge over a stream. But the clincher for my husband was the big garden. It had been much loved by the elderly lady who had lived here and the bones of a good garden were still there, although the nettles in the orchard were so tall we lost sight of each other as we explored, the old vegetable plot had long since lost the battle against brambles and there were so many rabbit warrens it was like living in the director’s cut of Watership Down.

Our first tasks were to remove the fruit trees that had died and plant new ones, and to weed and rabbit-proof the kitchen garden. Six years on and after much hard labour, it keeps us in fruit and vegetables for most of the year. We eat our produce straight from the garden, indeed it sometimes doesn’t get as far as the kitchen as we pop open pea pods, rootle for carrots and scrump fruit to keep us going as we work.

Any surplus gets given away, put in the freezer or turned into pickles and preserves. I should say up front that we don’t garden organically, although we mostly hoe and weed by hand. We are lucky – although it doesn’t always feel that way when we’re on our hands and knees grubbing up weeds – because we have room to grow a wide range of fruit and veg. But even the smallest veg patch, balcony or windowsill can be be highly productive and nothing beats the pleasure of eating something you have grown yourself. It tastes better, it’s as fresh as it could possibly be and you know exactly what has gone into it.

Rosemary and Garlic Chicken with Jerusalem Artichoke Purée

(serves 4)

Ingredients for the chicken:

8 bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks, 2 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil, 6 fat cloves of garlic, unpeeled, gently bashed with the flat of a knife, 4 good sprigs of rosemary, 2-3 glasses of dry white wine, salt and pepper to taste

For the purée:

800g Jerusalem artichokes, 50-75 ml double cream, salt and pepper

Method:

Scrub the artichokes, peel and chunk them and drop straight into a saucepan of water with a squeeze of lemon juice, as they discolour quickly. Add a pinch of salt and cook until tender. Drain, return to the cleaned pan with 50ml of cream and heat through. Purée in a blender, put back in the pan and season to taste. Thin if necessary with more cream – it should be thick enough to hold its shape on the plate – and set aside.

Heat the oil in a pan big enough to hold the chicken in a single layer. Season the chicken and brown all over. Drain off most of the fat. Add the rosemary and garlic and pour in the wine. Tilt a lid on top and cook at a very gentle simmer for 45-50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and tender. Check occasionally and add a splash of water if it’s drying out.

Heat the grill to high. When the chicken’s done, remove from pan and grill briefly to crisp the skin. Rest somewhere warm while you finish the sauce. Discard the rosemary. Squash the softened garlic into the sauce, discarding the skins. Stir well, scraping up all the browned bits, cook briefly to thicken and check the seasoning. Gently re-heat the artichoke purée. Serve the chicken with the purée and a green vegetable and drizzle over the sauce.

Catch Linda Duffin’s blog at mrsportlyskitchen.wordpress.com

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