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The Humble Turnip

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The humble turnip is a favourite of mine! I like its simplicity and the fact that it’s seasonal twice a year means that you can doubly benefit from this much under-valued vegetable. My father-in-law’s brother grows them on his allotment so they’re regularly in my home-grown veg box. Needless to say I’ve become quite inventive with their uses!

Unlike potatoes that are calorie dense and full of carbohydrates, a small bowl (150g) of cooked turnips has about 34 calories, and only five grams of carbohydrates. But, besides being a low-carb vegetable, turnips also have fabulous essential vitamins and nutrients your body needs.

You can get as much as 15 percent of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C when you eat turnips. Eat it with other plant food sources that are rich in iron and you’ll increase the power of your body to absorb this vitamin. The best way to achieve this is to eat the turnip greens, the leaves that are usually discarded, and are the most nutritious part of this splendid tuber! Every vegetarian should know the value of this humble root crop in their daily diet!

Turnips are rich in phyto-chemicals, antioxidants and fibre, it’s another anti-cancerous vegetable, promotes good health, maintains proper digestion and blood glucose control, and is thus good for maintaining weight control.

If you love mashed potatoes but are on a low-carb/low-calorie diet, why not use turnip roots as a potato substitute? It’s not a like for like replacement in terms of taste, but it is a super taste nonetheless. Cook it in the same way as you do potatoes: boil, mash, roast or you can cube it and stir fry it as I do in a take on Bombay Potatoes. The low starch content means that I use onion seeds instead of mustard seeds to really set off the flavours. Alternatively, if you’re going to use the greens you could mix it with a little crispy bacon or pancetta and add a dollop of creme fraiche as a great side dish!

Turnips are also edible raw so make good crudities, and are very nutritious in this way. I’ve provided a recipe below as a replacement to potatoes in that Indian classic: Bombay Potatoes. I hope you give them a go, and if you do let me know how you get on!

Bombay Turnips

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 800 g Turnips or baby turnips depending on the season
  • 2 tbsp Oil
  • 1 tsp Onion seeds
  • 2 Cloves of garlic – finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Ginger – finely grated
  • 2 Small dried red chillies, broken
  • ¼ tsp Hot chilli powder or 1 fresh green chilli
  • 1 tsp Turmeric
  • 2 tsp Ground cumin
  • 2 tsp Ground coriander
  • 100g Chopped tinned tomatoes or 1 large ripe tomato – in other words very juicy
  • 2 large three finger pinch of Fresh coriander – 1 x with spices + 1 x garnish
  • 1 tsp Fresh or desiccated coconut

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Trim the turnips at the base or give them a good scrub if you are not peeling them. Quarter them and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onion seeds and the whole chilli. Sizzle for a few seconds before adding the garlic and ginger. Ensure the heat is very low so that you can do this without browning the garlic too much. Cook for 2 minutes before adding the turnips. Stir to infuse them with garlic and ginger, before starting to add the spices – still maintaining a low heat. Cook for about 2 minutes.
  3. Now add the chopped tomatoes, mix well, and cover with a lid. Cook on a low heat until the turnips are cooked through.
  4. Garnish with the remaining fresh coriander and a little sprinkle of fresh or desiccated coconut if you have it.
  5. Serve as a side dish or with hot roti.

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