Ah, yes, the big reveal: those were hakurei turnips in my previous post the launched my 2014 CSA Adventures. On to the recipe now ….
So when I’m left with a new and intriguing ingredient, I don’t want to hide it in something. Yes, that might be more artful like the Belgian truffle I had today that had saffron at its heart. But no, I wanted to taste the naked mystery of these heirloom little turnips that I at first thought were white radishes when I brought them home.
And that makes for an interesting segue: did you know that radishes and turnips are from the same family? Yes, they are both brassica like the cabbage and and brussel sprout … a family that even includes broccoli, rapini, and mustard. Who knew? I certainly didn’t know the turnip was part of this family, but to stare just at the leaves of the hakurei next to the bunch of fresh radishes I also received, well, you couldn’t have told them apart. It’s worth noting that almost all of the foods in this brassica family are eaten for their leaves and what is above the ground. It gets you thinking, doesn’t it, about the turnip radish….
Well, this also got me thinking … and when I think, strange things happen, I admit. If you haven’t seen the new Jon Favreau film Chef, well, it’s well worth the ticket … especially if you love food. I mention this because there is a scene early in the film where he goes to the market and is leafing through the ingredients and buys radishes … and says that he wants some with good quality leaves because he is going to use them too. With that little segue, you probably understand the leading photo for this recipe.
Let me say that, hitherto, I was not a fan of the lowly turnip — until I ate these. Yes, I had some wonderful success with my roasted rutabaga recipe last fall, but it didn’t bring me to fall in love with this family of vegetable. But one taste of these hakurei and I was heard to exclaim: “Where have you been all my life?”
I kept this recipe very simple so that the flavour wasn’t going to be masked. But I also knew that I wanted to use those tops that I was inspired to taste from the movie. Still, I had one more challenge in front of me: I only had one bunch of turnips so I thought, what the hell … and out came the radishes as well. My only concern with using the radishes was whether they would adulterate the turnips with either their colour or their flavour. You can see from the picture, the turnips survived beautifully whole and white.
Onto the recipe: remember, simple was the goal. However, I also threw in half a pear for some light flavour and a few pieces of lemon rind … just something to tie it all together. Not overpowering, not enough to really make you go “Hmm,” but enough to bring it all in.
And the turnip tops? Brilliant. While the stems were a bit more chewy than, say, spinach, there was a nice refreshing flavour to them and their vibrant green colour really sparked the dish. I will definitely use them again.
A final note on the radishes: I really liked them in the dish and have to say this has been my favourite taste of radish, by far. Anne was less impressed with them, but she’s not much of a fan of radishes. The cooking method definitely left for a milder tasting radish with a hint of their eminent earthiness … but with none of their heat. What I loved most about this was shock of pink they gave the dish. However, if you really don’t like radishes, just omit them and double the turnips instead.
Trust me, if you haven’t had these before, go and get some … get some now … and be prepared to be wowed.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minute
Total time: 35-40 minutes
Poached Hakurei Turnips with Pear and Radish
- dozen Hakurei turnips, tops reserved
- dozen small radishes
→ optionally omit and double the turnips
- 2 teaspoons (10mL) butter
- 1 tablespoon (15mL) granulated sugar
- 1/2 Rocha pear
- 2 strips of lemon peel
- 1 cup water
- Pare the radishes (top and tails), leaving the top of the green stems to prevent ‘bleeding’ during the cooking. While I didn’t use the tops in this case because I just wanted the hakurei tops to discern their flavour, there is nothing to stop you from using both. Remove the tops from the hakurei and place them in a salad spinner and wash thoroughly to remove residual sand and then spin dry.
- Thoroughly wash both radishes and turnips, giving them a gentle scrub as you do so. Set aside.
- In a medium saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the radishes and turnips and the lemon peel.Roll the veggies in the butter and pan fry for about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle them with the sugar … and add the water (which should come about half-way up the vegetables).
… and cover with a lid and let simmer and poach for 15 minutes, swirling around every 5 minutes or so to prevent browning on bottom.
- After 15 minutes, carefully add in the pear slices and cover and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove turnips, radish, and pears to a serving bowl.
- Return pan to high heat and boil for about 5 minutes letting the water reduce a bit … and thicken. Add the turnip tops and cook for 3-5 minutes until wilted and stems are tooth ‘tender.’
- Artfully arrange greens around the turnips and radish and pour stock over top to ‘reheat’ the veg. Serve immediately.