WHAT IS ARABEE? JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES: A POOR MAN' S VEGETABLE: PUNJABI - STYLE ARABEE RECIPE
These roots vegetables have a curious history as regards their name. They actually have nothing to do with Jerusalem, as they come from North America where Native Americans cultivated them. Their name actually comes from the Italian, girasole meaning turning to the sun, as sunflowers do. They are a relative of the sunflower and are also known as Sunflower artichokes and in the US Sunchokes. They were called Girasola articocco in Old Italian, but are not an artichoke (carccofi in modern Italian).
They arrived in France sometime in the early 17th century, courtesy Samuel de Champlain who found them growing in Cape Cod in 1605 and sent them back to his native France. The French took to them and used them in soups and as accompaniments to beef. They love them so much still that the Jerusalem artichoke was named “best soup vegetable” in the 2002 Nice festival which celebrated the heritage of French cuisine. In Germany they are made into a spirit called Topinambur, or Topi (Topinambur was a European name for the tuber which suggests it was a poor man’s root). It was called the “Poor man’s vegetable” during World War II as they were grown widely along with swedes (rutabaga) to make up for the lack of other fresh vegetables. It is said that when these roots were first seen by American colonists they were at first shunned because they looked like the deformed fingers of lepers.
John Gerard mentions them in his “Herball” of 1636 and they were cultivated in British gardens, but not grown on a commercial scale. They taste a little like a water chestnut, as they have a nutty flavour, but they should be cooked carefully as otherwise you might suffer from flatulence. They are very tasty though whether cooked with meat or as a vegetable dish.
These arabee roots are sold for most of the year in Pakistan and we love them. The recipe below is one of our favourites. Not only do they taste good but they are also good for our health.
They contain inulin, which is not a starch, so they are different from other root vegetables such as potatoes. Inulin is converted to fructose (rather than glucose) in the body which can be tolerated by diabetes sufferers. Jerusalem artichokes can also be made into flour which is good news for people who have an allergy to wheat and other grains.
Vitamin A, Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic acid (B5), Pyridoxine (B6), Folate (B9), Vitamins C and E, and a whole lot of other nutrients including potassium, iron, selenium, Omega-6 fatty acids and trace elements. In other words they are very good for our overall health and boost the immune and nervous system, combat apathy and depression, support the muscles and improve concentration. All this in one delicious little root.
PUNJABI - STYLE ARABEE
½ kg Jerusalem artichokes
1 tbsp salt
1 large onion, chopped
200 gr tomatoes, peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 inch ginger root, peeled and cut into slivers
6 green chillies, finely chopped
2 tbsps fresh lemon juice
1 handful fresh coriander leaves, shredded
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
10 black peppercorns, ground to a powder
salt to taste
1 cup oil or ghee
How to prepare the Jerusalem artichokes: peel the roots and cut into quarters. Rub the tablespoon of salt into them and leave for 10 minutes. Wash the arabee thoroughly in cold water and dry.
Heat the oil in a pot and fry the onion, ginger and garlic until they start to change colour. Add the Jerusalem artichokes, and fry for three minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes, and all the spices. You won’t need to add very much salt because the roots will still have salt absorbed during the preparation. (Do not add the fresh coriander and lemon yet.) Cook them until the tomato juice has thickened. Add 3 glasses of water; cover the pot and cook on a low heat for ½ hour, stirring frequently.
Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice and coriander, stir well, cover and leave to stand fro 5 mins.
Serve with roti (chapatti) or naan.
This has Taste and is a Treat.