Okay, so this is not one of those jokes. But I’m writing this post on a dreary November morning and need something snappy to up the energy level around here. Maybe I should abandon the lame attempt at humour and just have another cup of coffee.
When I taught the root vegetable cooking class recently for the London Community Resource Centre, I was trying to showcase as many different root veg as possible in a variety of ways. How could I leave out the humble potato, and my family’s favourite way of enjoying it? Mashed potatoes are a staple around here, but are they cooking class worthy? Now, don’t get me wrong — mashed potatoes, made properly, are never boring. They’re creamy, fragrant and oh so tasty (I mean, have a look at these), and easily elevated from humble to elegant. But I needed to work something else into the mash, so to speak, and thought of the turnip.
Now, I did not grow up eating turnips. They were just one of many root vegetables that never made an appearance on my family’s dinner table because they weren’t commonly eaten back in my parents’ native Belgium all those years ago. To be perfectly honest, I rarely eat turnips now. I just don’t think about them all that much and generally my shopping cart rolls right past the creamy white and pale purplish tumble of them at the market. Until now.
This potato and turnip mash, made with roughly equal proportions of the two vegetables, has made me a turnip convert. Oh no, now I’m going to be one of those people. You know the kind … they can’t stop raving about their newest passion and find a way to work it into conversation at every turn.
Not only does the turnip add a mild peppery flavour to our regular mash, but its texture imparts additional interest. While I’m a fan of creamy mashed potatoes (without cream, that is), I’ve discovered that the distinctive toothsome texture of lumps of turnip is something to be prized. Add in the earthiness of fresh thyme, which I simply adore, and this dish becomes something that is definitely worthy of its own photo shoot.
Oh, turnip, turnip, turnip. There, I’ve gotten it out of my system for today.
Potato & Turnip Mash
Since potatoes and turnips are of similar consistency, you can cook them together in the same pot.
Note, many recipes that call for vegetables are not exact in their measurements. I could weigh out how much potato or turnip I used, but the reality is that if my turnip is a little over or under, I’m just going to use it anyway. Cooking is an art, and much of what we do is by eye and by taste. Relax in the kitchen and go with the flow.
Serves 2 – 4, depending on portion sizes.
- 2 medium sized Yukon Gold potatoes
- 2 medium sized turnips
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1/3 cup milk (I used 2%)
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- leaves from several sprigs of fresh thyme
Peel, cube and wash the potato and turnip. Place them in a medium pot and cover with cold water. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and cook until the vegetables are fork tender.
Pour off the water, add the butter and let the pot sit covered for a few minutes. Using a potato masher (my waffle-style masher is one of my prized kitchen tools), mash until all the potato and turnip is broken down. Add several grindings of black pepper and about half the salt. Pour in most but not all of the milk.
Continue to mash until the mixture is more or less smooth, but with some lumps of turnip. Add more milk if needed to achieve the desired consistency. Taste and adjust the seasonings if required. Run a knife through the thyme leaves or simply rub them through your palms to release their wonderful aroma and stir them into the mash.
For presentation, garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme. (It’s amazing how much cred you get for doing something simple like this.)