Steve Manfredi unravels the mysteries of kohlrabi.
Of all the vegetables, kohlrabi is the one I get asked about most often. The questions are mostly about how to prepare it and the simplest answer is to peel the bulbs, cut the crunchy flesh into batons and dress with good olive oil, salt and pepper. Eat as a salad or crudite.
Those of us who love broccoli stems will recognise the taste of kohlrabi flesh. Both are part of the large brassica family and have the unmistakable flavour of rapa or turnip.
Our recent restaurant garden crop provided much more than we could use, so we pickled the excess. To do this, peel five or six kohlrabis and cut into one-centimetre-thick, bite-size pieces. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with one level teaspoon of salt and one tablespoon of peppercorns. Cover with wine, rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar and mix well. Seal with cling-film and refrigerate for two days or more. Drain, dress with extra virgin olive oil and serve as antipasto.
For an unusual accompaniment to grilled or roast meat, take one kohlrabi bulb per person. Peel and cut into two-centimetre dice. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a pan on moderate heat and brown kohlrabi cubes for five to six minutes, stirring. Add half a cup of water, cover and simmer for another five to six minutes. Remove lid and evaporate any remaining liquid. Add one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, season with salt and pepper, and stir. Finish with a tablespoon of chopped chives.
BRAISED KOHLRABI WITH LENTILS
This dish is made in separate parts, which are then mixed together.
For the lentils
Place vegetables, rosemary and thyme in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Heat olive oil in a braising pan and lightly fry half the vegetables. Reserve other half for braised kohlrabi (below). Keep frying and stirring vegetables for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Add lentils and passata and cover with water. Simmer until lentils are soft. Add more water if necessary. Once cooked, season with salt and pepper.
For the kohlrabi
Peel kohlrabis and slice flesh into 5mm-thick bite-size pieces. Heat olive oil and gently fry chopped vegetables and kohlrabi for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Mash tomatoes with a fork and add, with liquid, to vegetables with a few good pinches of salt. Simmer until sauce has reduced and thickened, stirring occasionally. To serve, mix together with lentils and parsley. Season to taste.
Serves 6 as a first course
Peel kohlrabi and cut flesh into 1cm dice. Cut raw sausages into 3cm pieces. Trim root ends of spinach and wash leaves thoroughly in cold water. Drain and pat dry with clean tea towel. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil on moderate heat in a pan. Add diced kohlrabi and sausage pieces and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add wine and keep cooking until all liquid evaporates. Add spinach and remaining 1 tbsp olive oil. Stir and cook until spinach is tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serves 4 as a first course
Wine Australian rondinella-corvina blend