There’s been a discussion about kohlrabi amongst a food writers’ group I belong to over the past few days, so when I saw red kohlrabi in Wholefoods in Richmond this morning, well … it was impossible to resist buying some. I’ve actually put a couple of kohlrabi recipes on here before – with walnuts and apple; a yoghurt dressing – but I use it rarely, because it’s not often seen. And because it’s not often seen, most people don’t really know what to do with it. To be honest, neither did I, so I turned to my books again for inspiration and found this simple but gorgeous salad in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Veg Everyday book.
Kohlrabi is really quite an ancient vegetable going back to the Roman times when it was mentioned by Pliny. It’s a hybrid of the Brassica family and has a swollen stem – the part we eat – that resembles a turnip; Hugh suggests they’re best eaten quite young and small (again, much like a turnip). It’s always been more popular in Central Europe – Germany, particularly – and the East and Asia. You can cook it and serve it simply with some butter, lemon juice and seasoning. It’s said to make a good dauphinoise. But my experiments on the blog – and today – have been with it raw.
It is similar in texture and taste to a turnip. Hugh describes it as having a ‘water-chestnutty crunch’ and it does have a smell reminiscent of water chestnuts and that same kind of watery crunch to it. Hence it can be used in stir fries.
Mostly you’ll see the green variety but this red one isn’t red through (like a beetroot), only the skin. On peeling and shaving, it’s quite a pale thing inside. Hugh shaves it thinly carpaccio-style and similarly shaves thin slices of hard goats’ cheese on top. With just the simplest dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, seasoning and fresh thyme, it is quite the most glorious fresh-tasting salad for a warm summer’s evening. I ate it as a main course with a mixed salad on the side and slices of a very good focaccia I’ve found on the deli counter lately at my local Waitrose. But the dish would make a great starter too.
‘Carpaccio’ of Kohlrabi with Goats’ Cheese and Thyme
- 1 small kohlrabi
- hard goats’ cheese
- ½ lemon
- extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- a few springs of fresh thyme
I used only about half of my kohlrabi so as a main, it would have been enough for 2 people; 4 as a starter. Peel the kohlrabi. Use a sharp vegetable peeler to cut thin slivers onto a serving plate (at this point I reminded myself I keep meaning to buy a mandoline to cut thin slices of vegetables).
When you’ve got a nice layer of the vegetable, use the slicer to shave paper-thin slices of a hard goats’ cheese over the top. Make a good pile in the middle but you don’t have to cover all the kohlrabi. Squeeze lemon juice all over. Then drizzle a little olive oil on, but don’t drown the kohlrabi and cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Take the leaves off the sprigs of fresh thyme and chop roughly. Sprinkle over the top. Now it’s ready to serve!
It looked very attractive and delicious.
With the focaccia and mixed salad, it made a lovely light supper.
I loved the fresh crunch of the kohlrabi with the creamy goats’ cheese. You need a hard cheese to shave but in its thin slices it seemed to melt down a bit into a creamy topping, perfectly complimenting the raw crunchy kohlrabi. And the lemon and thyme dressing was sensational. Gloriously simple but oh so good!