This week we got a big laugh out of the Ooooby box. Kohlrabi is one of those things that reminds you that the universe has a sense of humour.
Something I’ve learned through growing my own veges (not very skilfully) is they often come out looking funny. Funny ha-ha. When you buy veges from the supermarket, you get used to them being perfect. Not just unblemished, but uniform in size and shape; smooth and straight.
Whereas homegrown carrots, in particular, can be pretty weird shapes. Quite humanoid sometimes. This might mean there’s a nutrient imbalance, or there might have been lumps in the soil. Or maybe they just grow that way.
And then, there are some vegetables that (I think) are just plain funny looking, even when they’re growing normally. Like broad beans. Have a look at a broad bean plant and see what I mean.
And then there’s kohlrabi. There were a couple of big ones in the Ooooby box. I have grown kohlrabi a couple of times, so I did know what they were. But mine never grew as big as these ones. They looked like mutant teapots! Or flying saucers.
Mutant teapots, before they were turned into dinner.
Kohlrabi are related to turnips. The name “kohlrabi” means “cabbage-turnip” in German. And turnips, all on their own, are the butt of a lot of humour. I’m not totally sure why. The Simpsons and the classic UK comedy series Blackadder both have plenty of fun at the expense of turnips. I don’t mind, as long as it doesn’t stop people eating them. We need more fun in this world.
Anyway, after I’d had a good laugh at these poor defenceless vegetables, I set to work figuring out what to do with them.
I consulted my new favourite recipe book, A Modern Way To Eat, by Anna Jones. (Big thanks to Elaine Gyde for putting me onto this creative, inspirational vegetarian cook.)
Anna doesn’t mention kohlrabi directly, but I figured that her swede, turnip and radish recipes might also be applicable to kohlrabi.
Here’s what I did with the two kohlrabi:
This is a sort of Scandinavian/ European salad that would go well on a traditional smorgasbord.
Peel the kohlrabi and slice thinly into small strips. Instead of slicing, I actually peeled it into thin strips using a vegetable peeler. I think a mandoline grater would have been useful for this.
Sprinkle with ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp fennel seeds and 2 Tbsp cider vinegar. Add 2 Tbsp finely chopped spring onion or chives. Mix together, cover and leave at room temperature for an hour or so.
Variation: For a Japanese/ Korean-style salad, omit the fennel and instead add a dash of sesame oil and 1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger.
This is Scottish comfort food. Neeps means turnips. It goes really well with The Organic Butchery’s superb pork schnitzel, or any of the Soggy Bottom sausage range.
I usually make it with swede, but kohlrabi works too.
Peel and boil until tender (in the same pot) equal quantities of kohlrabi and potatoes, plus one or two sliced carrots. Quantities depend on how many people you’re feeding.
Drain and mash with butter, salt and pepper.
Variant: Instead of butter, Anna Jones suggests olive oil and finely grated lemon zest. I haven’t tried that yet, but it sounds great.
A couple of other things to do with kohlrabi
English food writer Elizabeth David suggests a kohlrabi remoulade, similar to a celeriac remoulade, which is a classic French hors-d’oeuvre (celeriac is another weird and unusual vegetable).
All you do is grate the kohlrabi, or cut it into fine julienne strips, and mix it with homemade mayonnaise. (Just about any vegetable tastes good mixed with homemade mayonnaise!)
More ideas from Anna Jones:
Cut kohlrabi into chunks and roast with oil, garlic, salt and pepper.
Oven fries: Anna reckons this is by far the best way to cook swede, so I’m betting this would work for kohlrabi also.