Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Braised Turnips and Pasta

Once upon a time not so very long ago lived dreamy gardener. From time to time, she'd cast seeds upon the earth and sprinkle them with water; then she'd be distracted by the clouds drifting across the sky, or the sound of the wind whispering secrets to the sheoak, and forget about them.

One day, while wandering in the garden, the woman brushed against a forgotten turnip.

Left to itself in a quiet spot, it had grown and grown until the leaves were as high as her waist. Quivering with expectation, the woman felt around the base and discovered a root the size of a softball. She wrapped her hands around the stem, and heaved, and pulled, and as she thought of the little old man, the little old woman, the boy next door, the girl next door, the dog, the cat, the rat and the mouse, out it came.

Cackling, she carried it inside and placed it on the scales. The turnip weighed a kilo, the leaves another. She rubbed her hands together with glee, and started to cook.

When everything was ready, she called her husband and their three little girls to the table; and between the five of them, they ate it all up.


Turnip greens can be rather unattractive: a little bumpy, a little chewed, a little rough and hairy. Raw, they are bitter, and the hairs can irritate the skin. But blanched and stewed in butter, mellowed by sherry, tossed through pasta and gussied up with Parmesan, they become soothing and delicious, retaining their strength of character but becoming a little gentler, a little wiser, a little more generous, just as we ourselves might hope someday to become.

Braised Turnips and Pasta

- 3 bunches of baby turnips, or 6 normal sized turnips, or 1 gigantic turnip, with spritely greens attached (You absolutely do not need a kilo of turnip greens – although they are rather yummy – just as many as you can glean from the bunch.)
- 50g butter
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, whacked with the side of a knife so that they are split
- 1 tbs sugar
- ½ cup sherry
- ¼ cup water (you can substitute stock for the wine and water combo)
- salt
- enough pasta, say 375g to 500g depending on your household and whether you use wholemeal or white. Spaghetti is good here; the leaves enfold themselves around the strands and you can stab a piece of turnip onto the end of your bundle of pasta.
- freshly grated parmesan

Trim the turnips. Wash the leaves well and discard any that are yellowing. Trim the thickest part of the stem from the leaf and discard.

If you are using baby turnips, scrub them. If you are using larger turnips, peel them, halve them, chop them into wedges then halve the wedges crosswise so you have a pile of turnip chunks.

Warm the butter and oil in a wide skillet. Add the garlic and the turnips and stir. Sprinkle with sugar and stir again. Cook over medium heat until they turn golden, pushing them around with a wooden spoon from time to time to ensure they cook evenly and do not stick. This will take about twenty minutes.

Add the sherry and water (or the stock) and stir well, scraping up any bits of glaze off the bottom of the pan. Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until a knife slips easily into the turnips.

While they are cooking, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Salt it, and drop in the turnip leaves. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon, and gently press them in a colander to drain. Chop the leaves roughly and add them to the turnip.

Bring the water back to the boil and add the pasta. Near the end of the cooking time, check that there is still some liquid in the turnip pan. If not, add about ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water so that you have enough sauce.

When the pasta is al dente, drain it and add it to the turnips. Gently mix the pasta and turnips together for a minute or two to combine, then serve.

Don't forget to pass the parmesan!

Developed from a recipe for braised and glazed turnips found in The Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander.

(Local: turnips, olive oil, garlic, pasta. Not local: butter, sugar, salt, sherry, parmesan.)

No comments:

Post a Comment