Ever since discovering the brilliant recipe for low-carb moussaka, Tony and I have been wanting to experiment with one of the dish's key ingredients, the humble turnip.
Having never eaten a turnip before, we were pleasantly surprised by both the flavour and texture of this amazing vegetable and its incredible likeness to potato.
The turnip worked brilliantly as a potato replacement for the moussaka so I was keen to see how it would perform in other potato-based goodies like rosti, cheesy mash and, of course, traditional Greek mezes (appetisers) such as skorthalia (garlic dip), tiganita lahanika (fried vegetables) and keftethes (fritters or croquettes).
Skorthalia is a strong, garlic-flavoured dip that traditionally uses a soaked bread or mashed potato base. If you love a good hard garlic bang in the face, you'll love skorthalia. Of course you can regulate the amount of garlic that goes in but you ought to know, a big garlic hit is the big Greek way.
More importantly though is the fact that turnip works beautifully with this dip and produces exactly the same visual and textural result as skorthalia that is made with bread or potato. Flavour wise, I think turnip skorthalia is even better than the potato or bread versions as the sweetness of the turnip helps to balance the sharpness of the raw garlic.
I love a good plate of fried zucchini chips but have never been able to master the thin and crispy batter used for this classic Greek taverna meze. The batter should be similar to tempura batter but mine invariably turns out more like pancake batter. I know the recipe is simple but somehow I always manage to revert to some crazy notion in my head that batter needs to be pancake-thick. No matter what the recipe says. Crazy, I know.
So needless to say, my turnip chips didn't come out that great. Thickly battered and sloppy. Surprisingly, they still tasted ok, and to my own defence, they were actually crispy for the first five minutes.
The turnip needs to be sliced super thin for these chips so that it cooks quickly enough to keep up with the lightning fast cooking speed of the batter, especially if your batter is gorgeously thin and light. Go on, make your perfect tempura batter and whip up a batch of these wicked turnip chips – I'm sure they'll turn out way better than mine :)
Yes, that's right, the turnip chips are the ones on the far left of these photos. Stop laughing.
Vegetable fritters are one of my favourite Greek mezes. Usually made with grated zucchini, pumpkin, potato or eggplant, it wasn't hard to imagine how yum these would be with turnips. I used a standard Greek recipe for vegetable fritters mixing together a bit of flour, egg, onion, feta, herbs and spices with the turnip, then shallow frying.
These turnip fritters were the biggest success of the three experiments – my thick batter routine really shined with this one. Golden and crunchy on the outside and melt-in-the-mouth soft on the inside. I was also very impressed with how well my choice of spice (cumin) went with the turnip. Best of all, these are absolutely delicious dipped in tzatziki, or turnip skorthalia!
So without further ado, here are the recipes!
Makes around half a cup
- 1 turnip, peeled and cubed
- 1/2 clove of garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- Salt to taste
- Boil the turnip for 15–20 minutes until tender.
- Blend turnip with a stick blender, then add garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and salt to taste. Blend until smooth.
Makes a big bowl full
- 2 turnips, peeled and thinly sliced
- 100g plain flour
- 1/2–1 cup water
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Oil for frying
- In a large bowl, mix enough water (between 1/2 and 1 cup) with the flour to create a thin batter.
- Add the egg and salt and mix well.
- Dip the turnip slices into the batter and shallow fry in hot oil for a minute or so each side, until golden.
- Drain on paper towels and season well with salt.
Turnip and Feta Fritters
Makes around 20–30
- 2 turnips, peeled and cubed
- 1 brown onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 200–250g flour
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped
- 100g feta cheese, crumbled
- Oil for frying
- Boil the turnip for 15–20 minutes, until tender. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, fry the onion over medium heat until transparent and lightly golden.
- Put cooked turnip, onion, flour, egg, cumin and mint in a food processor and blend until a thick batter is formed. Add more flour if necessary.
- Transfer mixture to a bowl and add feta, stirring until just combined.
- Heat about 1cm of oil in a pan and gently spoon blobs of batter into the oil. Allow to fry for a couple of minutes before turning.
- Once fritters are golden brown, remove from pan, drain on paper towels and season well with salt.