10 March 2008

Molasses Braised Turnips with Pepper

When I was staying with my mom just before moving to D.C. I warned her: I'm in a phase where I'm cooking primarily Iraqi food now. My mother raised the expected skeptical eyebrow. "But don't worry mom," I said, "Iraqis love turnips." You see, my mother loves turnips, she likes to say she lost fifty pounds eating turnips, which she buys from a quirky bearded farmer at the market each week. They're a rather overlooked vegetable, a healthy alternative to potatoes with a slightly bitter edge. And funnily enough, Iraqis, whose cuisine tends to be meat and rice heavy, also love turnips.

In Iraq, turnips are cooked whole in a sticky molasses mixture and served as a popular street food. When I first heard about this in Nawal Nasrallah's Delights from the Garden of Eden (the go-to reference for anyone interested in Iraqi cuisine) I'll admit I was skeptical: both turnips and molasses can have a bitter edge, and I wasn't sure they could balance each other. But having made this dish three times now, I can tell you they sure do! I like to thickly slice the turnips and slow cook them in a molasses and lemon mixture until they turn translucent and almost caramelized. In Iraq, this would be made with date molasses, but good old plain molasses works perfectly, and my aunt gave me some sorghum molasses recently that I've also used with great results. We top the turnips with a sprinkling of black pepper for spice, or perhaps a few grains of paradise (a neat alternative to pepper). Since I recieved both the cookbook, sorghum molasses, and grains of paradise as Christmas gifts, think of this as a virtual thank you note. Yes mom, I know it's only three months too late.

Molasses Braised Turnips with Black Pepper
At the edge of spring, when I'm still reaching in the root vegetable bin, this is the recipe I reach for. The name in Arabic (maye' al-shalgham) means melting, a fitting name for this slighly sweet side dish.

2 lbs turnips
1/3 cup mild molasses
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
fresh black pepper or grains of paradise, for serving

1. Peel the turnips and slice thickly (about 1/2 and inch thick).
2. Place turnips in a wide pot with the molassses, lemon, and salt. Add enough water so that the turnips are covered by 1 inch. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn the heat very low and simmer for 30-35 minutes, stirring fairly frequently so that the turnips cook evenly. The turnips should be meltingly tender and the liquid should be reduced to a glaze. Serve immediately with fresh cracked pepper.


adele said...

Intriguing. I don't eat turnips often enough. I might just have to pick some up at the supermarket on my next trip.

What would you serve these with?

Mercedes said...

They're a side dish, so you could serve them with a range of things. Roast chicken and a green salad maybe, or maybe some halibut with lemon and some braised kale. Those are just the first ideas that popped into my head. I think they'd compliment lentilles de puy nicely, or one of those chicken and apricot tagines, a fennel slaw, or anything with lamb.

KMDuff said...

Turnips are so easy to grow and grow so fast, this is great as another way to use them! Thanks. :)

adele said...

Oooh. Lamb stew.

I might just have to make a trip to the butcher's.

Jessy and her dog Winnie said...

This looks like a really cool recipe!

Lyra said...

So you are in DC now? We should meet up sometime when you arent rushing about all over the place-I love your blog and your key lime pie ice cream recipe is famous around here:)

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

What a great way of doing turnips. I like your suggestions for complementing food, too - a tagine sounds particularly fitting.

Anonymous said...

Wow, cool blog about ME food and recipes, hope introducte some of special Iranina foods like Gaz(Persian Nouga), Halim,...
did you try it before?

kateza'atar said...

There was an abundance of turnips at my local produce truck last week, and I almost nabbed some, but chickened out, because I had no idea what to do with them. Thanks for the inspiration...I'm gonna try and braise/caramelize them in apple juice tonight, maybe with some salmon steaks and apple slaw? Anyway, I'll credit you when I post about it!

cyberHag said...

As a vegetarian I am always looking for new and interesting veg recipes. This looks amazing and what I really love- EASY! Thank you!