To be honest I had to google my way through pictures of a bunch of root vegetables in order to have an idea of what I was about to cook. Sorry, but I am not familiar with all these tubular treats temperate Germany has to offer. Along with leeks & fennel, I was dreading this other small pale mystery vegetable unknown to my little self.
But dared we did! We ventured and I can’t say I was disappointed…in fact I was very, VERY much surprised by the turnip and its curious taste & texture, and I promise to welcome them into my tiny kitchen from now on. How I got my hands on a couple of these I cannot share, but I was delighted to explore my options with the new vegetable in order to bring some new experimental material to you all.
Grown in temperate climates worldwide, it’s one of those rare Winter root vegetables that were really never a part of my tropical diet growing up. The most common kind – because apparently you can get a great many variety – is the mostly white-skinned kind with a little purple or greenish color where the sun has hit it. The interior flesh however is all white. Some evidence shows that the turnip was domesticated since before the 15th century B.C. and was grown in India at this time particularly for its oil-bearing seeds. It was also a well-established crop in Hellenistic and Roman times – Pliny the Elder considered turnips the most important veggies of his day! In oh-so-many countries, the turnip has played an important role…my favorites being the tale of how Scotland’s turnip lanterns in Halloween became part of a traditional Celtic festival AND the one on how the so-called nabos in Brasil became well-known as being distasteful – or at least somewhat disagreeable in taste – a bias which stems from the Middle Ages, when for the reason of being inexpensive, turnips became associated with the poor in most Iberian-descended cultures.
In any case, today turnips are best known as an accompaniment to game – making a good change to serve instead of potatoes around a roast. A favorite German peasant dish, Himmel und Erde, is made of mashed turnips, potatoes, & seasoned apples, combined in any proportion. Before I venture into preparing that interesting dish, I’ll wait until I find some lovely German willing to make it for me first!
For the Braised Turnips
- 1 pound of turnips, peeled and diced
- 3 tablespoons of butter
- 1 cup of chicken stock or broth
- Salt & black pepper to taste
Cook the diced turnips in boiling water, uncovered, over high heat for about 6 minutes. Drain. In a heavy skillet, melt the butter over high heat. Add the turnips and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring, until well coated with butter. Add the chicken broth and salt & pepper to taste. The stock should come about 3/4 inch up the side of the turnips; add more stock or water if needed. Reduce the heat, cover the skillet, and simmer until the turnips are tender but still slightly resistant to the tip of a sharp knife, 10 to 20 minutes.
Remove the turnips to a serving dish. Boil the cooking liquid over high heat until reduced to a thin, syrupy glaze. Pour it over the turnips and serve immediately.