Turn up for turnips


Julie French, from the Montmorency Community Group, cooks with less popular or familiar veggies. Here she discusses how to use and cook turnips. See her other articles in the right hand sidebar.

If Julie’s article inspires you to want to eat turnips, you might be interested in Robin Gale-Baker’s article on our website about how to grow turnips.

A lot of people turn up their noses at turnips, as did I until I tried a creamy turnip soup and discovered that this humble vegetable has a lot to offer in both flavour and in nutrition.

Both their roots and their leaves (turnip greens) can be eaten. They are high in fibre and in a number of vitamins (e.g. vitamin C and folate) and minerals (e.g. calcium). Make sure to choose fresh firm turnips, not too large. They should have a matt glow to their skin and smell slightly peppery.

The British have traditionally seen turnips as feed for cattle, not so the French. A classic dish of theirs is lamb navarin, a stew of spring lamb and baby turnips. Add turnips to soups and stews, glaze them, or prepare them as a gratin, soufflé or puree.

Turnips partner well with butter, cream, gruyere or blue cheese, thyme, savoury, tarragon, rosemary, watercress, roasted garlic, leeks, other root vegetables, lamb, duck, ham and bacon.

Try them in a simple cream of turnip soup: soften a chopped onion in some butter, add 350 grams diced turnip plus a diced small potato and cook in a covered pan for 10 minutes on a low heat. Add 4 cups of vegetable or light chicken stock to cover, and simmer until the vegetables are soft. Allow to cool, then puree and season to taste. You can add a dash of cream if desired.

Turnip puree makes a delicious side dish. Cook 500g turnips with 250g potatoes in salted boiling water until tender. Drain and mash or puree in a blender, add ¼ cup of orange juice, a dessert spoon of brown sugar, a good pinch of ginger and 50g melted butter. Mix all together and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Turnip gratin – peel and grate 750g turnips and sprinkle with a little salt. Melt 60g butter in a frying pan and cook the turnips over a low heat, stirring constantly to prevent them sticking, for about 10 minutes. Transfer the turnips to a buttered gratin dish and pour over 150ml cream to just cover them. Sauté 20g fresh breadcrumbs in 60g butter and then scatter them over the turnips. Bake in a 190degC oven for 30 minutes or until a deep golden-brown.

Stephanie’s glazed turnips

400g turnips, peeled
40g butter
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 fresh bay leaf (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Blanch the peeled turnips in a saucepan of lightly salted, simmering water for 5 minutes if large. Drain and cut the large ones into 2cm pieces or halve the medium sized ones.

Heat the butter and sugar in a wide-based saucepan over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Tip in the turnips and shake to coat with the syrupy liquid.

Add the stock and bay leaf, then cover and simmer for 12 minutes.

Test the turnips with a skewer. If tender, remove the lid, increase the heat to high and shake the pan so that the liquid evaporates, coating the turnips with a golden sauce. If the turnips are not cooked, and the stock is seeming to evaporate too quickly, add a little water, cover again and test after another 2 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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