The first time I encountered a kohlrabi was a few years ago when I used to regularly have a vegetable box delivered by Riverford Organic Farm. I’d seen them before but had never actually bought one so I was a bit flummoxed by what to do with it. I was pleased to discover a recipe in Moro East for a delicious salad made of thin slices of raw kohlrabi, radish and mooli. When I saw some kohlrabi in the Twickenham farmers’ market last Saturday morning I couldn’t resist buying one.
It’s a strange looking vegetable; actually a cabbage with a swollen stem. It’s never made its mark in UK though has been a favourite in Asia and Eastern Europe for a long time. Surprisingly, although we might imagine it to be a new import here, it was mentioned by the famous herbalist John Gerard in 1597 and then in Abercrombie’s Gardeners’ Dictionary in 1786, so has in fact been around for a very long time. Antonio Carluccio talks of eating it in Puglia and has a recipe for Braised Kohlrabi (Cavolo Rapa in Umido) in his book, Antonio Carluccio’s Vegetables (which is one of my favourite books; a present from my daughter Nicola back in 2002 and still much used). However, it was to Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem I turned tonight where I found a recipe for raw kohlrabi diced and mixed with watercress and a dressing made from yogurt, soured cream and fresh cream.
I wasn’t keen on the idea of buying a tub of cream and another of soured cream just to add a little bit of each to a salad dressing, so I opted to just use yoghurt. And I didn’t use Total Greek Yogurt as recommended – even though I had some – but preferred the Yeo Valley’s Organic Natural Yoghurt I had in my fridge. This would also be lighter and fresher tasting for a midweek supper when the air was hot and humid from the high temperatures and thunderstorms we’re experiencing in London right now.
I have to say I was slightly sceptical about how easily edible cubes of raw kohlrabi would be. I therefore cut them smaller than the recipe in the book – so about 1cm cubes. I think that was the right thing to do, but the lovely surprise when I tested them raw was the wonderful flavour. I just loved it. Carluccio describes it as being between a cabbage and a turnip, but a bit nuttier; Ottolenghi likens the flavour to cabbage also but radish too. It’s a wonderful fresh tasting vegetable; quite sweet, I thought. I ate a few pieces and could have happily continued without any dressing at all! However, I thought a dressing would be nice for my meal and I’d already bought the watercress, so on I went as planned.
I put the cubed kohlrabi in a bowl and then made the dressing. I’d used only half the kohlrabi so guessed at the other ingredients. I put about 2 heaped tablespoons of natural yoghurt in a small bowl. I mashed about half a small garlic clove with some salt and added that. Then a glug of extra virgin olive oil followed by a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some freshly ground pepper and whisked it all together.
I added the yoghurt mix to the diced kohlrabi. I chopped a few fresh mint leaves and sprinkled those over the top. Ottolenghi adds some dried mint too but inspection of mine revealed it was way out of date and looking a bit strange, so it ended up in my bin and not my supper! I then added some watercress. I pulled the leaves and tender stalks away from the main large stalk so I had none of the chewy bits.
I mixed everything together gently and transferred to a serving bowl. I put some more watercress on top and sprinkled over some sumac. It was done!
I’d been uncertain what to have with it. I’ve been quite busy today so wasn’t into making more salads – Otttolenghi’s suggestion – so I just took a homemade burger out of the freezer and griddled that for simplicity. I also made a green salad.
It was a lovely supper. Now I’ve reacquainted myself with kohlrabi I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to come back to it. Maybe because it’s rarely seen, especially not in supermarkets here. So while it’s in season and available in the farmers’ market, I shall have to make the most of it and buy more soon.