Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Turnip Diaries, Part V: The Spicy Turnip

Anthony Boutard, author of GSNW's Farm Bulletins, has developed a great friendship with Rahul Vora, a customer who has supplied him with recipes using fenugreek and for the traditional Indian dish known as Saag. Rahul just returned from an extended visit to India, and shares his recipes for his mother's turnip pickles.

Pickles, along with relishes and chutneys, are an important part of Indian cuisine. According to Rahul, every house has its own set of favorite pickles. There are regional variations, and virtually every fruit and vegetable is pickled. Pickling is an ancient art in India, and perhaps originated there. The great Russian botanist, Nicolai Valvilov, theorized that the place where a crop is most diverse is its center of origin. Under that principle, northern India is certainly the center of origin for pickles. The pickles range from very simple, quickly prepared recipes, to complex and densely spicy creations handed down through the generations. Even the noble turnip finds itself in a spicy pickle. Here are two variants.

The first is from Rahul's mother and uses lime juice. We made it using three aci sivri peppers for every half pound of turnips. The combination of lime juice and the ground peppers yields a mouthwatering fragrance, and the turnip offers a pleasant crunch.

Gujarati-Style "Fresh" Turnip Pickle

Cut turnips in half-inch dice. Mix with a little red chili powder (cayenne, paprika, or any other type) and salt (preferrably sea or kosher salt). Add lime juice and mix. Let it sit for one hour, mixing occasionally. It is ready to eat. This is good with dal and rice. Refrigerate. This pickle should be eaten within a week or so.

Murabba-Style Pickle
From IndianFoodRecipes.net

This style of pickle is typically, sweet, and dense with spices and pungent mustard oil. This style of pickle is also found in the Republic of Georgia. The mostardas of northern Italy also combine fruit and mustard oil, using grape must as the sweetening. Perhaps it is an Indian inflection picked up from trade with the east. The FDA has some reservations regarding mustard oil, so it is sold in Indian groceries and labeled "for external use only." We prepared the following turnip pickle this week, with the mustard oil carefully applied to exterior of the turnip per the label.

1 lb. turnips, peeled and cut in 1/4" thick chunks
1/3 c. salt
1 c. mustard oil
15 cloves garlic
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. onion seeds (nigella)
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. red pepper powder
3/4 c. sugar
15 dates, chopped
1/4 c. raisins
1 c. rice wine vinegar

Place chunked turnips in large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with salt and leave overnight. The next day, drain. Heat the mustard oil in a large frying pan and lightly brown the garlic, then add the turnip and cook for a short time to dry the chunks. Grind cumin seeds, onion seeds and black pepper, then put in smaller mixing bowl and combine with red pepper powder and sugar. In another bowl, combine dates and raisins and mix with rice wine vinegar. Then combine the turnips, spice mix and fruit, put in a jar and let it rest for a week.

Read the other posts in the Turnip Diaries series: Part I: The Wapato Valley, Part II: Chestnuts, Persimmons and Turnips, Part III: Misery Loves Company, Part IV: We're In This Pickle Together, Part V: The Spicy Turnip, Part VI: The Turnip Also Rises, Part VII: WWPD (What Would Pliny Do).  
Photo by Anthony Boutard.

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