Thursday, May 29, 2008

T is for Turnips roast with shallots and thyme

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
300g shallots
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?

Posted by Picasa


  1. The roasted turnips look really good, I wouldn't have thought of trying them like this. I usually buy the bigger turnips and make soup or boil and mash them. Cutting turnip is one of my pet hates :(

  2. Oh and kebabs. I only have them when we have a barbeque. I like cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, halloumi cheese and red onion on my skewers, with some lovely marinade.

  3. Holler
    Marinade - tell me more - what kind of marinade transforms your vegetable kebabs?

  4. Interesting blog - thanks for your kind comments on my site... all I can say with a Scottish hubbie and being half Scots myself - I'm right there with you on the tatties and neeps and haggis - we've even managed to get a haggis over from the UK to enjoy our Burns night in Brittany! Will visit again when I'm not feeling so hungry as the photos are too yummy looking! - Miranda

  5. Miranda
    Thanks for coming by.
    Do share any vegetable delicacies from Brittany!

  6. Lately I'm finding that all root vegetables taste better roasted than if cooked any other way. My opinion!

  7. Christina9:49 PM

    Have you tried Urad Bean?

  8. Lydia - you are right. They do. Though I do like mashed and pureed root vegetables -and Freddie does too....

    Christina - Will investigate the urad bean forthwith!

  9. I've never tried turnips like that, looks like a great idea.

    I can't think of anything for v either, but you could try umami for u.

  10. Halloween was never Halloween in Geordieland without walking around the streets with a hollowed out scary face, only we used bog old swedes. I remember once, in the 70s, loads of us getting our swedes kicked to pieces from a load of skinheads. Funny and sad at the same time, scary at the time!


  11. Sylvie - Thank you for the umami idea - will look closer at that...

    David Hall - You see - its only a few miles down the coast from Edinburgh to your part of the coast...and the tunrip tradition is much the same. Sorry about your skinhead experience - most unfair.

  12. Ursula L8:46 PM

    You'll probably be able to find the urad bean at an Indian grocery. It's more like a lentil, and it may be sold as urad dal, or urd dal. It might also be called a "black split gram lentil."

    I've heard of the turnip-carving tradition, but have never seen one. My understanding is that the habit of carving pumpkins into lanterns derives from the turnip tradition, pumpkins being larger, and conveniently pre-hollowed, they make a more spectacular face.


We always love to read your comments - thank you