Friday, 22 June 2012


Perhaps, like me, you've never given the vegetable kohlrabi a second thought, or even a first thought.  I bought it several years ago when I was food styling. It looked cool, so I tucked it into a display of artful vegetables in a photo. Did I eat it? Probably, because I hate to throw food away, but it left no memorable impression. As Grigson says inn her book Jane Grigsons Vegetable Book
"There are better vegetables than kohlrabi. And worse".

While in Paris this May I went with friends to Septime, a restaurant très à la mode in the 11th arrondissement. Well this isn't a review about the food, perhaps another time, but the first course included kohlrabi or céleri-rave as I discovered it is called in French. Kohlrabi is a type of cabbage, not a celery as the French name would have it. Nor it is a turnip or a root. It is a stem is swollen into a turnip shape. The name comes from Germany where they love it.

Very thin slices covered a big fat white asparagus, that wasn't quite cooked enough for my taste and there was a dollop of honey on the side to counteract the kohlrabi's bitterness. The dish was interesting, not great, then I went to London. London and kohlrabi aren't obviously related until you think of Yotam Ottolenghi.

I share a bond with Yotam, we both lost out to the fabulous Molly Stevens in the cookbook awards, so I had to see just what he was up to. I visited his Belgravia store where I fell in love with the roasted beetroot and rhubarb salad. The next day I had lunch with a friend who had picked up all the food from the same store. At lunch it was the dressing on the green salad that stole my attention. I  wanted his book, Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes From London's Ottolenghi. I bought the original edition with weights, not cups.

His cabbage and kohlrabi salad caught my attention, see this story is going somewhere. I had all the ingredients on hand, except of course the kohlrabi. The mixture of cabbage, kohlrabi, dried sour cherries and alfalfa sprouts with lots of dill, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic salt and pepper was very good. Now I am taking kohlrabi seriously.

Grigson notes as well as being a popular in Eastern Europe, kohlrabi is beloved in Israel. That no doubt explains Yotam's deft hand. Give it a try, but be mindful of Grigson's advice and buy kohlrabis (yes it sounds odd but it's one kohlrabi, two kohlrabis) sized somewhere between a golf and a tennis ball, any bigger and it will be as tough.


gluttonforlife said...

Love both kohlrabi and Yottam. The former is also delicious steamed, dressed with some walnut oil and lemon juice.

Mal's Allotment said...

céleri-rave? - What a faux ami!

Cabbage and kohlrabi. Great if you like brassicas. I can't imagine cabbage and turnip being good companions. Perhaps I'll get around to growing kohlrabi (a vague but longheld ambition) next year. Thanks for the prompt.

Jennifer said...

I know double brassicas, not my first choice, but definitely worth a second look.

Marie-Claire Saint Maux said...

@mal's this is not céleri rave but chou rave
@jennifer, je viens d'en préparer aussi avec une recette de Lebovitz qui est effectivement israeline je pense, j'ai découvert et j'aime

Jennifer said...

Yes you are right it is not celeriac or celery root but kohlrabi. Yes I understand that it a very popular vegetable in Israel.

E. B. Klassen said...

Love kholrabi--easy to grow, and a great crunch. We've always just eaten them like an apple; peeled and cut into wedges. Sometimes in a salad, but never used themn for anything else.

Jennifer said...

Not sure I'm ready to eat them like apples. Are they home grown and super fresh when you indulge?

Western Canada Permaculture Convergence 2012 said...

I feel I must come to it's rescue!
I have grown it here in the foothills of Alberta for 20 years. I grow it instead of Cabbage because it's so damn hardy. Cold nights, possible frost year round. No rain for weeks. Cabbage wilts and sends messages to the cabbage moths to move in, but not Kohlrabi. It's leaves get decimated, the hard, perfect bulb remains juicy and unharmed.
Eating it straight would not be one of the culinary highlights of my life, But make Kohlrabi sauerkraut, and you have a winner! Using a traditional ferment ( I prefer the Sandor Katz of Wild Fermenting method) add some cumin seeds, wow!
I serve it with some rabbit/pork spicy sausage that we make. No one, I mean no one has turned their nose up at it. It's always a winner.
just saying………
Thanks for shedding a much needed light on fat and organ meats.

Anonymous said...

I am a personal chef in New York City. This summer one of my clients who has a vast garden in upstate New York brought me some very fresh kholrabi. Neither she nor I had ever tasted such delicious non sulfurous crispy kholrabi. I prepared a slaw with a light olive oil, lemon and sea salt dressing. If you can get it this fresh, you will be surprised at how you can come to crave this vegetable. Fresh ones bears no resemblance to those in the supermarkets or even the farmers market.

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