As a child growing up in Scotland Halloween was always a special day. And turnips played an important part. I remember going out to buy large ‘neeps’ from the grocers and carrying them home in my tricyle basket. My father would slice off the tops and scoop out the hard flesh, cutting out eyes, a nose and mouth. My mother would cook this with potato to make ‘tatties and neeps.’ On Burns Night, we would eat it with haggis and at Halloween, with sausages. My father would thread a wire through the turnip and hook it on to a stick. We walked around the cobbled streets with our friends in the dark, scaring ourselves with turnip lanterns. Is it only in Scotland that this happens?
This week to round off our turnip tasting session, we made "Tatties and Neeps", mashing together floury Maris Piper potatoes with Swede, a little butter and some nutmeg. Then we turned our attention to the rather more dainty small white turnips with their bright purple tops.
When the children were younger we used to read them a story about a gigantic turnip. It involved a long cast of characters pulling an enormous turnip out of the ground. Freddie always used to worry about how the farmer and his family were going to finish all that turnip. I felt a little like that when I looked at my bag of small turnips. I promised to try and make these miniature versions as appetising as possible. I combined them with shallots, sprigs of thyme and cloves of garlic in a deep baking tray and roasted them in the oven. Nothing was going to live up to the high-scoring swede fries but our miniature turnips, served with salmon fillets, were given 7 out of 10.
Roast turnips with shallots and thyme
Serves 4 as a side dish
700g small turnips
5 garlic cloves
Handful of fresh thyme sprigs
Half a teaspoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Preheat the oven to 180C. Cut off the stalk of the turnips and halve or quarter them, depending on how small they are. Remove the shallots skin and cut them in half. Shop the thyme into small sprigs. Keep the 5 garlic cloves in their skins. Put all the ingredients in a deep-sided roasting or baking tray. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and mix round with your hands to make sure everything is well covered. Sprinkle the sea-salt. Place in the oven and cook for about 40-45 minutes, until the turnips are golden brown and tender inside. Half way through cooking, turn them over with a fish slice so that they cook evenly. The garlic cloves will be soft inside. When they are cooked and ready to eat, pick out the garlic cloves which are in their skins and squeeze the soft roasted garlic out and mix it around to flavour the turnips and shallots. Serve immediately.
The alphabet winds on - and sadly when it comes to vegetables, some letters of the alphabet seem to be more greedy than others, leaving U and V out in the cold. So we are going to be inventive with V for Vegetable Kebabs coming up next. Do you have a favourite vegetable kebab recipe?