Monday, November 1, 2010

Simmered Turnip

Vegan Mofo! Another post. Though I have to confess, I'm doing my best to work in advance, because my schedule is pretty hectic right now. But, reading through my blog roll, everything is looking amazing! I love whole communities of people getting excited about food - it really makes me happy. So, here's something else that made me happy... :)

The above plate was actually my breakfast one morning. I know, I'm a little crazy on the real-food-for-breakfast thing. But, in my defense, it was a public holiday, and it wasn't an early breakfast. Plus I had some beautiful turnips in the fridge - what kind of person describes turnips as beautiful?! Still, they looked amazing when I bought them - bunches of lush greens, still attached to glowing-white orbs, looking pearly and crisp in the artificial light of the vendors' lighting before dawn broke. Turnips aren't known for having a great deal of flavour, but honestly, sometimes that's a benefit for food. Not only can they take on stronger flavours, but they can be used for texture without detracting from a dish. These are cooked into something incredibly light and tender. It's comfort food without the grease.

These don't look quite as pretty after a couple of days in my fridge. Still, they're easy enough to prepare, and the greens can be used too. The stems are quite fleshy and moist, much like choy sum, and benefit from a quick stir-fry more than, say, a long simmer. The turnips themselves, on the other hand, aren't a vegetable I like to use for stir-fry. They're high in moisture, so the crisp texture doesn't stay as crisp as you'd expect of a carrot.

Here's where I admit what a spontaneous purchase these were, because I didn't have the necessary ingredients to make my favourite turnip preparation - turnips simmered in a sweet, soy-flavoured dashi broth. It's an idea that I stole out of a japanese cookbook a long time ago. Usually I use daikon radish, because it keeps its shape better and looks more attractive, but ordinary turnips work perfectly fine. Generally I'd make a dashi from a few cups of water and a 10cm square piece of kelp (konbu) or the equivalent amount in konbu strips. However, I didn't have any on hand, so that was replaced with a light vegetable stock, which is just some organic brand that I picked up at the supermarket. The mirin, which usually provides a subtle sweetness, was replace with a little white sugar. One day, I'll post a proper recipe, I promise. In the meantime, this is still delicious and light, but it definitely can't be called Japanese.

Simmered Turnips
2 medium-sized turnips, peeled
2 cups water
1 tsp light vegetable stock powder
1/2 tsp white sugar
1 Tbsp Japanese soy sauce

Halve the turnips and cut into centimetre-thick slices. Cut a few grooves into each one - be careful to only score the surface or they'll fall apart when you're cooking them. Aside from looking attractive, this makes a large piece of turnip easier to break apart when you're using chopsticks to eat.
Heat the water, stock powder, soy sauce and sugar together in a small pot. Add the turnip and simmer gently until the turnip is transparent - about 20-25 minutes. Don't let the heat get too high or the turnip will fall apart, or worse, turn to mush. Slow and steady wins the race.
Remove the turnip pieces from the broth using a slotted spoon, and serve with rice and greens. Sprinkle a little broth over the rice, if desired.

A few stems of turnip greens were dropped into the broth and poached for a few seconds to make for nicer presentation. I recommend cooking turnip greens in your leftover broth, once you've removed the turnips. The flavour is a little more concentrated, but you might like to add an extra sprinkle of salt.


  1. I have been obsessed with roasted turnips lately. Happy to have another idea for preparation, sounds lovely.

  2. Oh, roasting! Yum! I'll have to add turnip next time I roast a batch of vegetables - I've tried adding swede, but never turnips. Thanks!

  3. sounds great. will have to try this. looks beautiful with the rice, greens & the onions, good idea.


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