Thursday, January 12, 2012

Get Down To Your Roots, Turnip Masala

   Even though it's Summer, in some places right now (Australia I'm looking at you) here in Sonoma we are experiencing Winter. A dry Winter at that. Usually this time of year we are up to our armpits in rain and the Sierras are covered in snow. This year no such luck. While in 2011 people were skiing at Tahoe as late as July 4th, so far this winter there is nary a flake. Still, rainy or not, it's cold. Most mornings it's 30 degrees and sometimes less out on our deck. I know to a lot of people that's not really cold, but it's our cold and when it comes to Winter we take what we can get.

  I suppose I'm sort of a freak when it comes to Wiinter. It's my favorite time of year. I've never been crazy about Summer, those long hot endless days full of light. I like an early dark, I like a cloud cover. I don't do well in heat, and even though I have lots of friends who count down the days till Daylight Savings Time hits, I'm not one of them. Give me a fuzzy sweater, heavy boots and a bowl of root vegetables and I'm happy. This is my time of year.

  Growing up, my mom didn't serve a lot of root vegetables (except for carrots) and my only experience with them was limited to Peter Rabbit dodging buckshot like some kind of John Woo movie in Mr. McGregor's Garden, or a Thomas Hardy novel where people were always freezing and gathering Swedes (rutabagas). Root vegetables took on a sort of literary fascination. Eat a turnip, turn into Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

   Root vegetables were always associated with a cold climate. Imagine my surprise when I started cooking Indian food 22 years ago to discover that root vegetables are big in Indian cuisine. Any list of Indian vegetarian dishes is filled with potatoes and yams, parsnips and rutabagas, radishes and turnips. That's not counting shallots and onions and ginger and water chestnut, turmeric and fennel. I could go on, the list is long.

   So, now that the Holidays are behind us, maybe some other stuff is too. It's the New Year, time to clean  up the diet, and what better way than with some root vegetables. Fresh, inexpensive and in many places, local. Which is exactly what I was thinking when I picked up some beautiful young turnips at the market. After all, the expensive company food and treats during the last couple of months around here, it's nice to get back to something that rings in at under a dollar a pound.

   Turnips are spicy and peppery and almost radish like in taste, and with the right spices they become smooth and slightly sweet. Turnips with Spices, Masala Shalgam, is easy to fix and a great way to introduce turnips to a possible turnip-phobic diner. The ingredients are simple and if you don't have everything, don't worry. Most of it is at the local market.

Turnip Masala

 Here's What You Need:

1 lb of turnips peeled and diced
1 onion thinly sliced lengthways
1 fresh green serrano chili seeded and finely chopped
A 1 inch piece of ginger peeled and finely chopped
1 large fresh tomato peeled and chopped or 1/2 can of canned chopped tomatos

1 tsp of coriander
1 tsp of cumin
1 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of turmeric
1/2 tsp of ground cloves
1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
1 tsp of jaggery or dark brown sugar
2 Tbs of fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 cup of dried grated unsweetened coconut

Here's What To Do:

Heat 1 Tbs of vegetable oil (I used coconut oil) in a skillet or kadhai.
When the oil is hot, toss in the cubed turnips and brown them lightly. This mellows the flavor.
When they've been lightly browned set them aside.
In the same skillet add the sliced onions , ginger and chili.

Cook until the ginger and chili is softened and the onions are translucent and slightly browned.
Add in the chopped tomatoe.

Cook them down a bit until they've softened.
Add in the sugar, cumin, coriander, cloves, cinnamon and salt.

Stir everything around, then add in the turmeric.

Stir that in and cook for about 1 minute then add in the coconut.

Mix it in well then add the browned turnips back into the skillet.

Add about 1/3 cup of water, mix it in well and put a lid on the pan.
Simmer everything together for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Take the lid off and  check the turnips for tenderness. They shouldn't be too soft. If there is too much water left in the pan, cook it off. The sauce should be on the thick side.
Check for seasoning.
Sprinkle in the chopped fresh cilantro and serve it up.

   This is a delicious turnip dish. It makes a great introduction to this lowly, too often neglected root vegetable. It's makes a great dish for a vegetarian meal paired with rice, chapatti or roti and one or two other vegetables. It also works as an interesting side dish for any American style meal.

   There you have it, taking advantage of what's in season and getting a dose of Vitamin C, Niacin, Riboflavin, B6, Folate and Pantothenic Acid. This last one by the way is listed as assisting in the metabolizing of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.

Of course for metabolizing there's always this:

But personally  I think turnips are much more fun and a lot less embarrassing!

   Coming up next I join the #QuinoaQueens. Yeah, it all comes out of weird stuff that goes on late at night on Twitter. Follow along @kathygori.


  1. I lurve turnips. Looks great Missy.

  2. I so wish I grew up with foods like this. Turnip never looked so good!

  3. Nice recipe , I never actually tried turnips with coconut but it looks great. We use a lot of roots vegetables and these turnips are even cooked with meat. Kashmiri turnip recipes are great too.

  4. I love Indian food and I have recently bought some spices in the attempt to produce some nice dishes. Well.. I have lots to learn. This looks very yummy so I will start with this one! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Never made iNdian style turnips Kathy. I guess the flavors will suit any vegetable!!Oddly enough I dress them simply with OO, Lemon and salt but next time I get them I think of your recipe.



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