Pottering in the kitchen today, I had a little more time so brought together Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem Artichoke recipe from his book Plenty. Simple to make, it takes just a little time as you need to roast the artichokes, make the charred tomatoes, blend up the basil oil and grill the halloumi. It appears a random combination of ingredients, but it is not so. A perfect combo of bitter, sour, sweet, crispy, crunchy, soft and creamy.
Sometimes bitter greens are not available, so I substitute nasturtium leaves which are always plentiful here. And some rocket leaves.
This dish can be made ahead of time, but serve it at room temperature. Make the Jerusalem Artichokes, basil oil and charred tomatoes ahead of time, and cook the halloumi just before serving.
The original recipe uses Manouri cheese but that is not available here. I used a fresh Greek halloumi with great success. You could also use Persian Feta and it would work very very well (don’t cook it!). Leave off the lemon rind if using feta.
Jerusalem Artichokes with Halloumi and Basil Oil
2 small lemons
500g Jerusalem artichokes
4 sprigs fresh thyme
120 ml olive oil
Salt and black pepper
400g cherry tomatoes
400g halloumi, or Manouri, cut into 1cm slices
1 red or white Belgian endive (also called witlof and sometimes called chicory), or use radicchio, or if all else fails, use rocket and nasturtium leaves
50g basil, leaves and stalks
20g flat-leaf parsley, leaves and stalks
1 garlic clove
140 ml olive oil
Preheat the oven to 220C.
Grate the rind of 1 lemon and put aside. Squeeze the juice of that lemon into a medium bowl and add half a litre of water.
Peel the artichokes with a vegetable peeler, cut them lengthways 1cm thick and drop immediately into the acidulated water to prevent discolouration.
Lift the artichokes from the water and lay them in an oven-proof dish, together with the thyme, the juice of the second lemon, three tablespoons of water, a tablespoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Mix together, cover the dish with foil and roast for 40-45 minutes, until the artichokes are tender. Remove from the oven and set aside somewhere warm.
While the artichokes are roasting, prepare the basil oil and tomatoes. Put basil, parsley, garlic and a pinch of salt in a food processor and start the machine. Add 140ml of oil in a slow trickle, until it is all incorporated and you have a runny paste.
For the tomatoes, heat a frying pan on a high flame. Add a tablespoon of oil and the tomatoes and char them quickly, shaking them around the pan to get even colouring. After three to four minutes, they should be lightly blackened but retain their shape. Set them aside and sprinkle with salt.
Wipe clean the pan and pour in enough oil to come 0.5cm up the sides. Place over medium heat and, once hot, fry the cheese slices for two minutes a side, until a good brown colour. Transfer to a paper towel.
Arrange some endive leaves on serving dishes. Build up the dish with warm cheese, the artichokes, tomatoes and more leaves. Finish with a drizzle of basil oil and a scattering of lemon rind, and serve at once.
recipe notes and alternatives
I like some capers with the salad if I am not using the bitter greens.
Likewise, grated lemon rind and/or a squeeze of lemon juice brightens the whole dish.
Use pesto rather than basil oil if you wish. It will add more complex flavours but also works well.