A glut-gift of turnips together with a Tunisian tip: slice them thinly, coat with harissa, and enjoy raw. My friend promises me that her old Aunt’s method is authentic and good.
Turnips are not my top choice of root veg, but they have a strong track record for having sustained people through the ages. Once upon a time they were the poor man’s staple (especially in Europe), but when the potato arrived from the New World, turnips fell out of favour – although their use as weapons (both verbal and physical) did not.
However, a hit of harissa might just turn these turnips into something else.
A recipe from the book Olives and Oranges confirms my friend’s instructions. So I sliver the turnips, let them sit in salt, then mix with lemon juice (I have no lime), and harissa (from Tunisia). I add a splash of Portuguese olive oil too.
My husband describes the taste as “interesting“.
I agree, so I roast them instead.
Much better – sweet, sharp and lemony. Best served the Tunisian way, with gently fluffed up couscous.
Harissa is the condiment of choice across Northern Africa, from Morocco through to Libya (it also warms Egyptian food and spreads into the Middle East beyond), but Tunisian harissa is said to be the original. Crushed red chillies, garlic, salt and lots of olive oil (plus perhaps coriander, cumin and caraway seeds) combine to fire up any dish.
Of course, there would be no harissa without red hot chilli peppers (brought from the Americas to Northern Africa via Iberia). Fitting that while one edible New World discovery (the potato) heralded the decline of the turnip in some places, another food find enabled its enhancement in others.
More on how to use harissa here.