Often overlooked and left to wither on shelves and in market stalls, the kohlrabi is in fact a delicious orb – crisp, juicy-sweet and a little spicey. Its an awkward knobbly species though and it was, on my part, overlooked for so long because of its often tired and quite alien appearance, assuming that they’d been shiped over from far and mysterious pastures. But it is in fact of the cabbage family and is perfectly at ease in Ireland’s damp soils. If you can catch it young and still vibrant in colour and poise. The dish that won me round was prepared by a friend – young kohtrabi, unpeeled, sliced thin and dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, served with a few whole skins on roasted almonds and sprigs of chervil.
Kohlrabi, burnt scallions, horseradish and honey
Trim a couple of inches off the top and the outside layer of the scallions. Sear them whole (and season them) with a neutral oil in a hot pan until the outside begins to blacken. Slice the kohlrabi (on a mandolin if you have one) thinly across its diameter. If it’s on the big side (tennis ball upwards) then best to give it a quick blanch and shock in icy water at this point. Toss the kohlrabi with a little salt and olive oil. Layer the slices across the plate, scatter over some chopped burnt scallions, drizzle a little honey, grate some horseradish, squeeze some lemon juice and maybe a bit more salt and olive oil.
Kohlrabi and braised mustard seeds
In some water, white wine vinegar, salt and sugar. Braise some black and yellow mustard seeds until swollen, plump and juicy. Stalks off and peel the kohlrabi. Cut it into irregular, edgy chunks and steam them until tender. Smear some crème fraiche or soured cream onto a plate and then arrange your still hot kohlrabi on top. Pop your mustard seed in a pot with some melted butter, heat and spoon over the kohlrabi.
Pouched chicken, kohlrabi, milk and walnuts
First off, the kohlrabi puree, peel it and cut into chunks. Steam or simmer in water until tender. Once drained, pop the kohlrabi in the oven, just for a minute, to dry it of excess water or the puree will be too…watery. Mash and put through a sieve, then season with salt. Best to use a whole chicken here, even if cooking for one or two – there’ll be much fun to be had with leftovers over the days ahead. With the skin – which you’ll be pouching the chicken with but not serving it with – let it dry on a tea towel and then leave in the fridge until ready to use. Fry it in oil until golden brown, sprinkle with salt and have immediately in a sandwich with mayonnaise and pickles.
Season your chicken by rubbing salt under its skin half an hour before you’re ready to poach it. Take the legs and thighs off the main body together. Poach everything in very lightly seasoned water with half a lemon, some peppercorns and bay. Bring it to boil and keep it just below a simmer. After half an hour take out the main body and leave the legs in for another half hour. When rested take the skin off and cut down with your heaviest knife to serving sized pieces – each thigh into two, each leg into two, cut off the wings, eat the oysters and rip the breasts into four or five. As the chicken is poaching bring some garlic cloves up to the boil in milk and simmer gently, stiring occasionally so the milk doesn’t burn, for five minutes. Drain the milk, cover again with fresh milk and repeat the process. And then once more. The astringency will have dissapeared and in its place a warm sweetness.
In a pestle and morter ideally (or a blender of some sort minus the textural and tactile joy) crush some capers and parsley and flakey salt, add the garlic, then some baked walnuts, then trickle in some olive oil. It should be a course, stiff-ish paste, then trickle in some milk as you pestle away to loosen a little.
When ready to serve heat the chicken pieces slowly back up in their by now light and fragrant poaching liquor. Pop a big spoonful of the kohlrabi puree in each eating vessel, then the chicken on top – some brown some white – with a little of its liquor, and then spoon over the walnut and milk paste. And a grind of pepper.
Kohlrabi, egg and turnip tops
Boil an egg (per person + a couple for tits up peeling) for 5 minutes and ten seconds and then shock in ice water. When cooled, give it a little bash top and bottom and all around and peel carefully under the water (so that the water may get underneath the skin to help the process along).
Puree the kohlrabi as for the chicken above.
Take the turnip top off from the tip of the turnip. Seperate the stalk from the leaves. Cut the stalks into 2/3 inch lengths. Boil in salty water for a moment then toss in a pan with a little oil, honey and white wine vinegar. Serve the egg alongside a soon full of the kohlrabi. Ontop with the stalks and on top with the leaves. Finish with some extra virgin rapeseed oil. And eat with some bread to help clean up the mess
Image by Fiona Hallinan