“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Kohl's Law

Hey guys, how about I give you the answer to the Name This Food! food?

As you might recall, last time I asked what this was...

And surprisingly, I thought, nobody was able to supply me with the answer, which was

Kohl Rabi!

So naturally I was concerned. Kohl Rabi (or kohlrabi) was one of those veggies in the 70s and 80s on telly that they kept trying to introduce to the British palate in TV cooking shows and programmes like Blue Peter and Magpie, and we all thought it sounded decidedly foreign and weird and it was expensive to buy in the stores and so nobody bought it unless they were a hippie type that knitted their own yogurt and had hessian wallpaper.

So what the heck is it?

Well the name comes from the German Kohl ("cabbage") plus Rübe ~ Rabi (Swiss German variant) ("turnip"), because the swollen stem resembles the latter, hence its Austrian name Kohlrübe. Actually it's nothing to do with turnips, and is a cultivar of the cabbage. And it'll grow almost anywhere.

It was artificially created to look like that. Yes! Kohlrabi has been created by artificial selection for lateral meristem growth (a swollen, nearly spherical shape); its origin in nature is the same as that of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts: They are all bred from, and are the same species as, the wild cabbage plant (Brassica oleracea).
The taste and texture of kohlrabi are similar to those of a broccoli stem or cabbage heart, but milder and sweeter, with a higher ratio of flesh to skin. The young stem in particular can be as crisp and juicy as an apple, although much less sweet.

Except for the Gigante cultivar, spring-grown kohlrabi much over 5 cm in size tend to be woody, as do full-grown kohlrabi much over perhaps 10 cm in size; the Gigante cultivar can achieve great size while remaining of good eating quality. The plant matures in 55–60 days after sowing. Approximate weight is 150 g and has good standing ability for up to 30 days after maturity. It can be eaten raw as well as cooked, and there are several varieties commonly available, including White Vienna, Purple Vienna, Grand Duke, Gigante (also known as "Superschmelz"), Purple Danube, and White Danube. Coloration of the purple types is superficial: the edible parts are all pale yellow. The leafy greens can also be eaten.

The other reason you guys probably didn't get what it was is because of my choice of picture. By the time Kohlrabi gets to the shops the leafy stems have been removed, leaving it looking like this.

However, when growing on the garden, it looks like this...

This is obviously one of the purple varieties.
So, we need a recipe, don't we?

Try this for a nice bit of comfort food.

Kohl Rabi and Potato Gratin

Serve as a main, with salad and a dollop of tomato chutney or pasta sauce - or as a side to roasted meat. You can use other vegetables as well - like courgettes, mushrooms, beetroot, fennel, or parsnips. 
Serves 4-6

25g butter
3 medium onions (1 minced, 2 chopped)
3 tablespoons plain flour
350ml milk
1/2 teaspoon English mustard
Pinch of ground nutmeg (or to taste)
1 tablespoon oil
1 kohl rabi, peeled and chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
400g potatoes, chopped (peeled or unpeeled)
150g red lentils
2 medium garlic cloves, crushed
420ml water
2 tablespoons fresh or 2 teaspoons dried parsley
100g cheddar or Gruyere cheese, grated
1-2 handfuls wholemeal breadcrumbs
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add 1 minced onion and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until just soft - about 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir to form a paste, for 1 minute. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking or stirring constantly. Add in the mustard, and season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the kohlrabi and 2 chopped onions, and sauté until just soft. Add the carrots, lentils, potatoes, garlic, and water. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 10-15 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Combine with the white sauce and parsley. Season to taste. Transfer the mixture to a large shallow oven dish. Combine the cheese and breadcrumbs, and sprinkle over the top. Bake 45-55 minutes, until the top is golden and the vegetables are soft.

Or how about a nice salad?

Kohlrabi, Apple and Creamy Mustard Salad

Try with slivered almonds or raw sunflower seeds sprinkled on top. Serves 4 as a side dish

60 ml double cream (for whipping)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 heaped teaspoons wholegrain mustard
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 kohlrabi bulbs, peeled and cut into julienne strips (keep the leaves to use in another recipe!)
1 apple, cored and diced
In a bowl whisk the cream until it holds soft peaks then whisk in the lemon juice, mustard and sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the kohlrabi and apple, and serve.

OK, folks, what's the new Name This Food! food?

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