Darina says: "Jerusalem artichokes are a sadly neglected winter vegetable. They look like knobbly potatoes and are a nuisance to peel, but if they are very fresh you can sometimes get away with just giving them a good scrub. Not only are they a smashing vegetable, but they are also delicious in soups and gratins. They are a real gem from the gardener’s point of view because the foliage grows into a hedge and provides shelter and cover for both compost heaps and pheasants!"
This is a very hearty dish, full of nutrients. We celebrate a special day in August called Janai Purnima, when every Nepalese household makes sure to cook this dish in their kitchen. Mixed dried beans need to be soaked overnight or at least for 8 hours. It is great as a very healthy, nutritious and filling lunch or dinner.
This soup is a great favourite in the spring when the nettles are young. Nettles are full of minerals and vitamins which purify the blood. In the country, nettle tea was also drunk, made by pouring boiling water over chopped nettles, boiling for about 15 minutes, then straining and adding milk and sugar. This was often given to children who had measles. It is said to have been a favourite of St Columcille. Nettle soup is still served in some hotels in Ireland; this recipe is from Declan Ryan, who was chef-proprietor of the much-starred Arbutus Lodge, Cork - sadly no longer in existence. Use gloves and a scissors when cutting the nettles. Do not gather them from sprayed verges or after the end of May as they will be too tough.
From: Neven Maguire: Home Chef
Stock up on cans of vacuum-packed chestnuts, which are normally readily available in good delis, shops and large supermarkets at Christmas time. If you want to keep the soup vegetarian, garnish it with some sautéed mushrooms instead of the smoked duck.