Peace Turnips

growing-turnipsI pulled up some fresh turnips out of a friend’s neighbor’s garden last weekend.  I am not a huge fan of turnips.  The only turnip dish that I have ever actually enjoyed is something I’ve encountered through many years of historical reenactment, a dish from a 15th century work by an Italian author named Platina.  It describes cooked and sliced turnips mixed with sweet spices and cheese, layered together and served while hot.

The recipe for Armored Turnips from the 15th Century work by Platina can be found here at Cariadoc’s Miscellany.

Platina book 8

Cut up turnips that have been either boiled or cooked under the ashes. Likewise do the same with rich cheese, not too ripe. These should be smaller morsels than the turnips, though. In a pan greased with butter or liquamen, make a layer of cheese first, then a layer of turnips, and so on, all the while pouring in spice and some butter, from time to time. This dish is quickly cooked and should be eaten quickly, too.

Most often I’ve seen this done with cinnamon, ginger and cloves, layered with any number of cheeses from brie to cheddar to Swiss and then baked. I have eaten variations with Worchestershire sauce or Fish Sauce in place of the liquamen, flavored with ginger and cinnamon.  Some interpretations of this recipe include a little extra sweetness added in with a sprinkling of white sugar among the layers.  I like the extra touch of sweetness which helps to counteract the natural bitterness of the turnip.

Since I am dairy-free, I have pretty much given up on cheese substitutes.  They lack the casein and whey that give cheese the qualities we love it for, and it usually just isn’t worth it.  Recently I have found a line of products that I like from Daiya.   I have a bag of Daiya Mozzarella Shreds in my fridge right now, and decided to try out a variation on the old Armored Turnips recipe.

Daiya products are better than any others, but you still have to treat them just right to get satisfactory results.  If you put them on top of something and expect them to melt, you are in for disappointment.  They do better when they are mixed into something, preferably with some liquid.

For my Peaceful Turnips, I started with my two garden-fresh turnips and peeled them, slicing them into 1/4 inch crescents.  I peeled and sliced a thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger and put it and the turnip slices into 3 cups of boiling water, simmering until the turnips were tender, about 10 minutes.  I just happened to have a couple of tablespoons of spiced honey I leftover from another project which suited my needs perfectly.  You might use some good local honey or other sweetener or leave out the sweet component completely. If using dry spices, sprinkle them on the layers of turnips as they go into the pan.

Peace Turnips

2 turnips, peeled, halved, sliced into 1/4 inch crescents
1 thumb-sized knob fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin
3 cups boiling water
½ cup Daiya Mozzarella Shreds
2 tbsp spiced honey  (with cinnamon, cloves, ginger, black pepper)

Cook the turnip and ginger slices in the water until tender, about 10 minutes.
Strain out the vegetables and return the water to the heat and increase to a rapid boil.
Dissolve the honey into the water.
Reduce the water to approximately 1/2 cup.  (You want enough to almost cover the turnips in the pan.)

Toss the turnip and ginger slices with the Daiya shreds.  Layer into a baking dish.
Once the water has reduced to 1/2 cup, pour over the turnip mixture.  The liquid should almost cover the turnips.
Bake without a top in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until the top is brown and bubbling and the liquid has thickened to a rich sauce.

I found the combination of the spiced liquid and the shreds to work beautifully, making a sauce that was much better than I expected.  I could see varying this with savory spices, adding butter or even coconut oil, using fish sauce or soy sauce.  And as Platina says, it is best when eaten quickly while hot.
With a tasty dish like this, I might learn to love both dairy-free cheese AND turnips!

What do you think?  Do you love turnips? Hate them? Trying to learn to love them like me?  What is your favorite turnip dish? Help me out, leave me some of your best turnip secrets in the comments!

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