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Good health before Christmas: Soppa tal-Artiċokk

With Jerusalem artichokes selling at dirt-cheap prices this week, David Darmanin of Taverna Sugu proposes a healthy pre-Christmas option that may also be used as chemical warfare against your nemeses during the upcoming office party

Good health before Christmas: Soppa tal-Artiċokk


Main Ingredient Jerusalem Artichokes
Preparation Time 90 minutes
Cooking Time 40 mins
Course Soup
Recipe Serves 4
Recipe Type Traditional: Maltese
Society is an interesting animal. While we anxiously look forward to the festivities’ merriment, booze and indulgence, the next two weeks are somewhat marked by general abstainance from excess and debauchery. We are more careful with calorie intake; we get less drunk and spend less. It is as though we are setting ourselves the proverbial calm before the storm, a bit of a Catholic Ramadan preceding Christmas.
Bars are less populated, restaurant tables are harder to sell and (judging by his quasi-violent moods lately) my surrogate baker in Sliema is not having any sex.
The rule does not seem to apply to Cospicua, where the feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrated there last Wednesday was an immaculate example of how business owners in the neighbouring town of Vittoriosa are at times provoked to conceive unpardonable blasphemy, this time mostly directed at Bormla’s patron saint – miskina.
Long story short: while Cospicua was gaily celebrating, indulging and transgressing this week, Vittoriosa turned into a ghost town as all traditional accesses leading to Malta’s maritime capital were blocked. Not even Garmin could figure out a way into town.
Screw it. Along with fellow Vittoriosa business owners, I could spend my free time moaning and swearmongering. Which reminds me that if I fail to submit my contribution to planetmona on time (again) this week it is quite likely that I get a good beating this time.
So as we save up the earthly pleasures for Christmas, here is an uber-economical, uber-healthy recipe we can feed our families with this week:

This is what you need to annihilate about four people:


2kg Jerusalem artichokes

2 local red onions, finely chopped

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Juice of half a lemon

Fresh marjoram

Seasoning (aka salt and pepper)


How to do it:


Wash the artichokes, rubbing them thoroughly under running water. Peel the tubers, ensuring that no traces of soiled peel are left. Slice them and wash them again.

In a pot, sweat the onions in a little olive oil and add the Jerusalem artichokes and marjoram. Keep cooking on high heat, stirring from time to time.

Once the vegetable softens, cover with water and reduce the heat to a simmer.

Keep cooking for 20-30 minutes and liquidise the soup. Add some lemon juice, season and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes. Easy.


David Darmanin runs Taverna Sugu in Birgu.  Taverna Sugu has been reviewed by Malta restaurant and review website planetmona where it was awarded 4 stars by Editor-in-Chief Mona Farrugia and a current 5 stars by readers and diners.

Shopping Tips
Jerusalem artichokes are selling at 80c per kilo at the farmer’s market this week. The tuber may not be much in demand as it is a real hassle to peel, or so is the official excuse when punters decline even when faced with such favourable prices. The real reason is that it creates gas. We all know that.

This is what 17th Century English planter John Goodyer once said about the root vegetable: "which way soever they be dressed and eaten, they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented, and are a meat more fit for swine than men."

He may have been exaggerating a little, or he could have failed to thoroughly wash the tubers before and after they are peeled. Unless you have weak intestines, pain is avoidable. Farting, not. So if your office party is set to take place at some noisy club, make sure to dance right next to that colleague fearfully expecting your revenge. Let it all out, look at him in disgust, block your nostrils and point your finger at him.


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David Darmanin
December 29, 2010
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LOL, actually they're called Jerusalem artichokes because once the plant stems from the root and it flowers, the result is uncanningly similar to the sunflower, which the Italians call Girasole. Lost in translation, Girasole eventually became 'Jerusalem'.
Changing water does work up to a certain extent, but careful not to lose the flavour.
I'll try the capsicum idea, thanks :)

December 29, 2010
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No wonder they are called Jerusalem artichokes, they leave your intestinal system in trepidation. However I used to try this simple but yummy soup but adding two sweet capsicum peppers (for some unkown reason always yellow)to sweat with the rest of the vegetables. Someone told me that boiling artichokes seperately for 10 minutes throwing away the water afterwards and continue the cooking with the rest of the veg, will leave you gas free.

Mona Farrugia
December 11, 2010
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What does the potato do?

Susan Mompalao de Piro
December 11, 2010
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I got this tip from my vegetable man Chully, and it really makes all the difference:
Whenever you cook Jerusalem artichokes, always add at least one peeled potato while cooking. In this case, it can stay in and thicken the soup, but if you want to serve them boiled with garlic and parsley . delicious - you can remove the potato before serving.

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