Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Braised Turnips With Mustard And Chervil

The turnip has an image problem in this country. Perhaps that's not so surprising. I can remember some pretty terrible meals accompanied by grey and unpleasant turnips in the distant past. Fast forward a few years and I was eating turnips in France and realising that they can be absolutely delicious.

I've been growing an old French variety ‘Des Vertus Marteau’ for a couple of years now and the flavour and texture is probably the best I've found. Better still, they’re really easy to grow and quick to crop. So if you have a little spare ground, then I recommend trying some. Unless you live in France, you’re unlikely to find the seeds of this or other similar French varieties at the local garden centre but they are quite widely available from suppliers of heritage seeds. (Assuming that new EU regulations don't remove this option).
Des Vertus Marteau
Chervil has a bit of an image problem in Britain too. It never seems to be as widely available as other fresh herbs in shops and supermarkets. But chervil has a lovely flavour and looks good as a garnish so I don’t really understand why. Again, the good news is that it’s very easy to grow.

This is my favourite way of cooking the young turnips, which have a real affinity for mustard and lemon. It's an excellent accompaniment to simply cooked duck but it will also sit happily alongside other meats and poultry. It can even form part of a vegetarian mezze. The amounts given here can be varied to taste but this should serve 2 as a side dish. You could use parsley in this dish if chervil can't be found and if you don’t have enough turnips, then you can add some sliced carrots to make up the numbers. If you don't fancy these particular flavourings, I should add that the turnips also work very well in spicier dishes. For instance, a little honey and lemon juice with Moroccan spices can be delicious.
Turnips with Mustard and Chervil
Take 4 or 5 small, young turnips (around 400 g before preparation). Wash and either scrape or peel them. Cut them into thin, but not wafer thin, slices.

Add a little duck fat (or goose fat or butter) to a generously sized frying pan and place over a low to medium heat. Add the turnip slices and sauté gently, turning every now and then, until lightly browned (about 10 – 15 minutes, if you’re being really gentle).

Season well and add 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a generous squeeze of lemon juice and just enough chicken or vegetable stock to cover the turnips. Scatter over about 2 teaspoons of chopped chervil. Cover the pan loosely and simmer gently for 20 – 25 minutes or until the turnips are very tender. Keep an eye on them and don’t let the pan dry out.

Remove the lid, stir in another teaspoon of Dijon mustard (or half a teaspoon if you’re less keen on mustard than I am) and another generous squeeze of lemon juice. Continue cooking gently until the sauce has thickened and coated the turnip pieces. Adjust the seasoning and sprinkle over some more little pieces of chervil before serving.

Since chervil is so important to the dish, I'm adding this post to the August Cooking With Herbs Challenge over at Lavender and Lovage.

Cooking with Herbs

17 comments:

  1. Oh Phil you're so right. Turnips do have an image problem - maybe it's something to do with serving them with haggis!! Anyway you've tempted me to giving them another try - I'm sure cooked correctly they will be wonderful - I LOVE chervil but find it hard to come by in the States :(
    Mary x

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    1. Ah, the turnips of "haggis with neeps 'n' tatties" are Scottish turnips, otherwise known as swedes (I think that's rutabaga in the USA):).

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    2. The names of these innocent root vegetables can cause a lot of confusion. What I'm talking about here are what the French call 'navets' and are called 'turnips' in the south of England - I believe they are technically 'brassica rapa'. Swedes are larger and I believe are known as 'neeps' in Scotland and 'rutabaga' in the USA and elsewhere, but are sometimes called 'turnips' in other parts of England - technically I think these are brassica napus. A friend of mine from north of the border once told me that turnips were too small and pathetic and therefore suitable only for the English. On the other hand, I've never seen swedes on sale in French markets - they do grow them , but they use them as winter feed for cattle, I think. Personally, I eat both of them.

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  2. Oh Phil you're so right. Turnips do have an image problem - maybe it's something to do with serving them with haggis!! Anyway you've tempted me to giving them another try - I'm sure cooked correctly they will be wonderful - I LOVE chervil but find it hard to come by in the States :(
    Mary x

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  3. Oh these look so good. I didn't grow up with turnips, so never really had any bad memories of them... my husband loves tangy, mustardy flavours, so this is going on the list. So, what are the chances I may be able to the get the seeds shipped out here? They're kinda annoying at customs, but surely there must be a way through? Husband has been growing lots of vegetables, and this would be a great addition to the garden.

    Thanks for sharing, Phil.

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    1. I've not checked but I'd guess that there's a pretty good chance of finding a supplier of heritage vegetable seeds in Canada that would have this seed or a similar variety. I know there are a number of other heritage seed suppliers in other parts of the world such as the USA and Australia that stock French varieties. Well worth seeking out in my opinion.

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  4. i've never made turnips like this, they look very very good. I've always used them in cooking as its a vegetable my grandma always used. I have an amazing turnip and watercress soup which is to die for!

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  5. The only time I have come across chervil before was when a French woman I worked with made chervil soup - sorta figures. Turnips look smashing Phil :)

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  6. I love turnips, but the ones you buy here don't taste good. Agree with you about chervil too, Phil. It's hard to find and so good with a lot of food, like eggs or white meats. Will look out for the French seeds when we go next month.

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  7. Wow - think I am missing out. We have neeps a lot (swede) - cook it as a veg to go along haggis or other meat dishes, or have it in all stews or soups. I absolutely NEVER have turnip, though. And, in fact, it isn't readily found up here. Will have to go and have a look and see if I can get some. Or I guess I will just have to try growing some. No reason why not.

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    1. The humble turnip really does seem to be considered a bit pathetic in Scotland but I think there's room for both. Apart from radishes, this is just about the easiest and quickest veg to grow from seed, I've found, so have a go if you get the chance. Quite a good source of vitamin C too, I believe.

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  8. As ever Phil, your posts are bristling with interesting facts and history, and this recipe is also a stunner, with the duck fat and chervil being the stars of the show for me, along with the turnips of course! Thanks so much for adding it to Cooking with Herbs, chervil is one of my favourite herbs and it grows like made in my garden in France. Karen

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  9. Mmmm that sounds good, I love turnips. Off to see if I can find some turnips at the market. Keep well Diane

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  10. Delicious Phil, never tried this variety before, neither chervil. I loved the sound of mustard & lemon dressing; I am now curious, thanks to you, look forward to trying out!

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    1. I've never really understood why chervil seems relatively rare other than in France where it's one of the famous 'fines herbes'. It has a relatively subtle flavour but enhances a wide range of dishes. Well worth trying.

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  11. These look absolutely brilliant Phil, I agree as well that both turnips and chervil have an image problem and are things that I've never got into. But I'm going to make an extra effort from here on in!

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  12. Can I fess up? I've never used fresh chervil. But as I love turnips and adore mustard, this looks like a winner!
    Janie x

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