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).
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.
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.