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Ask 10 friends to describe a turnip and nine will probably complain about the big waxed yellow-fleshed (smelly!) root they were forced to eat as a child. I, too, grew up calling rutabaga a turnip, though I enjoy its sweet earthy flavour. Both are from the...

Fresh Bites: Turnips are more versatile than you think | Toronto Star

Ask 10 friends to describe a turnip and nine will probably complain about the big waxed yellow-fleshed (smelly!) root they were forced to eat as a child. I, too, grew up calling rutabaga a turnip, though I enjoy its sweet earthy flavour. Both are from the...

Fresh Bites: Turnips are more versatile than you think | Toronto Star

Ask 10 friends to describe a turnip and nine will probably complain about the big waxed yellow-fleshed (smelly!) root they were forced to eat as a child.

I, too, grew up calling rutabaga a turnip, though I enjoy its sweet earthy flavour. Both are from the brassica family, yet I still wonder how the names got mixed up.

As any French man or woman knows, the turnip (navet) is a modest cream-coloured root with a delicate purple blush that releases a fresh, sharp scent when peeled and cooks up white and translucent. Some say it tastes like a spicy radish crossed with a sweet, mellow cabbage.

You may find a few Ontario turnips lurking in the produce section, green tops removed, or spy them at a farmer’s market this summer. Local growers offer several varieties — some heirloom turnips have a green or yellow blush — and a Quebec greenhouse is growing small, white Japanese turnips under glass.

Though the fact it’s related to the rutabaga may cause some to run the other way, this versatile vegetable with the zesty crunch deserves a place at the table.

Buy & Store

  • Choose firm, unblemished turnips with a bright purple blush.

  • If greens are attached, they should look fresh. Remove and store separately, refrigerated loosely in a plastic bag.

  • Store turnips in the crisper up to two weeks.

  • If they’re woody or spongy inside, compost them.

Prep

  • Clean with a soft brush under running water to remove any dirt.

  • Cut off flat top.

  • Peel older turnips. Young turnips, with their thin, tender skin, don’t need peeling.

  • Cut in quarters or wedges before roasting or adding to stews. Dice for soups or mashing.

  • Save fresh-looking greens for salads or soups and use like any other leafy green.

  • Eat turnips raw, steamed, boiled, baked, roasted, or stir-fried.

Serve

Raw: Cut in matchsticks for a carrot-apple slaw, slice for salad or cut in sticks for dip.

Sauté turnip wedges in olive oil with garlic just until tender-crisp. Don’t overcook or they’ll be mushy. Cooking tends to tone down the spiciness a little.

Mash cooked turnip with butter, salt and pepper and fold in crumbled cooked bacon and chives. Top with parmesan cheese. Or mash with potatoes, carrots or parsnips, adding butter and milk.

Pickle turnip sticks.

Soup: Cook in chicken broth with thinly sliced leeks and purée.

Roast: Cut in chunks, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme and a sprinkle of brown sugar. Roast at 400F (200C) for 40 minutes or until tender and caramelized.

Meat: Add turnip wedges to the roasting pan with beef, duck, goose or pork.

Gratin: Bake into a gratin with cream and strong gruyere or comte cheese.

Navarin Printanier

This classic lamb stew celebrates spring. The name may refer to the use of turnips, navet in French. If desired, steam the vegetables until tender while the lamb cooks and add them to the sauce just before serving.

1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil

1 1⁄2 lb. (750 g) lamb stewing meat, cut into 1 1/2 -inch (4 cm.) cubes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 small yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

2 tbsp (30 mL) tomato paste (look for a tube of Mutti brand)

2 tbsp (30 mL) all-purpose flour

3 cups (750 mL) + 1/2 cup (125 mL) low-sodium beef broth

5 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

12 pearl onions, peeled*

10 mini potatoes, peeled if desired

4 medium turnips, peeled and cut in wedges

3 medium carrots, peeled and cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm.) pieces

1/2 cup (125 mL) green peas, cooked

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).

Heat oil in a 4-litre Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season lamb with salt and pepper. Cook lamb in batches (don’t crowd pan!) until browned, about 8 minutes, turning once. As they brown, transfer to a plate with tongs and set aside. Add chopped yellow onions to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, tomato paste and flour and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes.

Gradually stir in 3 cups (750 mL) broth until well blended. Add reserved lamb with juices, along with thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Cover, bring to a boil then transfer to lowest rack of oven. Cook about 1 hour. Remove thyme and bay leaf.

Add pearl onions, potatoes, turnips and carrots plus ½ cup (125 mL) broth. Cover and return to oven for 45 minutes or until lamb and vegetables are tender. Add green peas and stir until heated through. Serve navarin hot in bowls.

Makes 4 servings.

*To peel pearl onions, cut off root end and throw in boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and cool under cold water. Slip off papery skins.

Cynthia David is a Toronto-based food and travel writer who blogs at cynthia-david.com

Cynthia David is a Toronto-based food and travel writer who blogs at cynthia-david.com

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