Friday, 30 January 2009

White Turnips with Hazelnuts, Thyme and Lemon

Here's a little amusing task for you. Get a turnip and a swede then walk up to random people in the street and ask them if they know which one is which. You will probably get a lot of strange looks, certainly people running away from you and most likely the possibility of being arrested. But when you do get answers, the chances are that an awful lot of people will get it completely wrong.

I grew up thinking a swede was a turnip and vice versa. Despite mashed swede (the orange stuff) always being either on the Sunday dinner or crudely chopped into tiny cubes and boiled to smithereens on the school dinners, a little part of my tiny mind still could not distinguish which was which. And judging by the tests I have done when I'm in a 'Is it a swede or a turnip?' mood, the British public have the same problem.

In these days of food obsession and the fact that I have a responsibility to teach people about food in my everyday job, it is a culinary stumbling block I have had to get right. Swedes are the larger orange fleshed variety and called 'neeps' up in bonny Scotland. Turnips are generally the smaller white fleshed variety with a light purple tinge to their skin. Got that?

I managed to get some British baby white turnips this week which was surprising for this time of the year. But no complaints as these small, sweet and delicate vegetables are a true treat that with the right attention can be transformed into a complete dish on their own. My turnips are given royal treatment with the addition of roasted hazelnuts, thyme and lemon and just a hint of garlic to allow the vegetable's natural pepper heat to shine through. If you get some with their luscious green tops complete, wilt them in the pan as you are finishing them off to give you the complete dish. If you can't be bothered to cook them, a few thin slices added to a salad adds a welcome crunch and heat.

So get your swedes and your turnips the right way around. Both are quite the most amazing vegetable in their own right and certainly vegetables that should be promoted to higher status on the British dinner plate. Of course, I could be wrong and I could be right.

White Turnips with Hazelnuts, Thyme and Lemon
Feeds 2 as a lunch or 4 as a side dish

6 baby white turnips
2 handfuls of whole hazelnuts
25g butter
1 small clove of garlic, sliced thin
A handful of fresh thyme, leaves stripped from the stalks and roughly chopped
The juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper

1 - Cut off any leaves from the turnips and roughly chop and set aside. You can leave the skins on small white turnips but if you prefer, peel and cut into medium chunks. Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the turnips. Boil for 5 minutes - you want a bit of bite to them - then drain and set aside.
2 - Bash your hazelnuts up into pieces, not too small. Heat up a frying pan and add the hazelnuts. Gently toss them until toasted but be careful as they will burn easily.
3 - Add the butter to the pan and melt. Add the garlic and thyme along with the cooked turnips and gently toss until coated. Squeeze in the lemon juice, grate in some black pepper and taste for seasoning. If you have the leaves left, toss them in and cook for a few seconds until wilted.

18 comments:

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Yer I knows that! ;) x

Anonymous said...

GAH! Imagine the confusion if you grow up on the other side of the Atlantic, where they throw the ghastly word, 'rutabaga' into the equation. Crazy people.

Alex said...

You would not believe the arguments we have about turnips vs swedes ... I'm on your side!

Bellini Valli said...

Now is it a swede or is it a rhutabaga David..wink...?

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Can't say I've ever had that problem, but I can totally understand it.

Your recipe for the turnips looks utterly delicious. Too bad I haven't got any in this week's veg box... Maybe next week...

Wendy said...

And just to confuse the situation even more - "neep" is the Scottish word for turnip. What you call a swede, we call a turnip and viseversa!

Holler said...

OK, foodfight! The large yellow/orange fleshed ones are turnips, here in Scotland (home of neeps)and the little white and pink ones are swedes and not to be borne! Fists up and at the ready boyo LOL :D

Antonia said...

I've always been confused having lived for six years in Scotland where it is the other way around. Whichever they are, I love 'em. Particularly swede (orange, English definition)!

Trig said...

I can tell the difference. Swedes are the ones who put on white jumpsuits and sing "Waterloo". Turnips are the ones who manage the England football team.

cackster said...

I heard a swede can also be known as an Ulrika. I just thought posh people called turnips swedes! Flan-Quiche,cake-biscuit,tomato-tomatoe. These things need answering so thanks for that David.

Rosie said...

I can imagine folks trying to tell the difference. I watch something on T.V. a while back and many children couldn't put names to veggies like a carrot....

Rosie x

Orce Serrano Hams said...

Well, I am a turnip man through and through, used to carve them out with a wood chisel for halloween, both great flavours but the bigger, more purple variety - that's on the plate with my tatties!

Aimée said...

I'll take your word for it, David! :)

Gavan aka The Healthy Irishman said...

Turnips are one of my favs man. People don't eat them a lot over here but I'll still grab them whenever I can. Nice post as always Dave.
Hope you're well
Gavan

Ros said...

Funnily enough I tried to buy a celeriac the other day and the girl behind the counter was convinced it was a swede and got a bit cross when I pointed out the mistake. I think she thought I was trying to scrounge cheap veg eve though the celeriac was a little bit more pricey. Ah, these indistinguishable root vegetables and the trouble they cause.

Jan said...

You've got to love those roots. I love swede. or rutabaga as it's called here. Whenever I buy them the checkout operator always has to ask me what they are. %-)

I also love turnips, but I'm on a bit of a roasted parsnip kick at the mo. Hey whatever floats your boat.

Ed Bruske said...

Turnip is the little cousin to the Swede, which is what we commonly call "rutabaga" over here in the States. Turnips are a bit more astringent. I like pickling them as Korean kimchi or fermenting them in the German fashion called sauerrueben. Swedes or "rutabaga" are a bit sweeter (and more orange). The can be turned into a fabulous bisque, a skillet gratin with greens and blue cheese or a beautiful quiche.

Ed Bruske said...

correction--in the previous comment I meant to say souffle, not quiche, relative to Swedes. But maybe you could make a quiche with them as well.