When spring is in the air, but it’s too early for local produce we can still turn to our trusty stores of root vegetables for hearty and nourishing dishes. Before long we’ll be celebrating asparagus and rhubarb and all the fare of spring, but for now let’s take comfort in this Potato and Turnip Mash.
A Potato and a Turnip Walk Into a Bar …
Okay, so this isn’t one of those jokes. But I’m writing this post on a dreary 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.
Ode to the Mashed Potato
When I taught the root vegetable cooking class 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.
Discovering the Turnip
Now, I didn’t 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.
Potato Turnip Mash
This potato 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 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.
Since potatoes and turnips are of similar consistency, you can cook them together in the same pot.
Many recipes that call for vegetables aren’t 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.
- 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
- 2 medium turnips
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1/3 cup milk (whatever type you prefer; I use 2%)
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- leaves from several sprigs of fresh thyme
Peel and wash the potato and turnip and cut into about 1-inch cubes. 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, 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.)
More Mashed Potato Love
There’s nothing like well-made plain mashed potatoes. Not only are they easy to make, but you can also make them in advance for your gatherings. Then again, you might want to jazz them up in all manner of interesting ways, like Apple Mashed Potatoes (yes!) and Chive Mashed Potatoes (these are topped with sautéed mushrooms, oh my).
First published 2013 11 13 Republished 2019 03 21