Friday, 17 February 2012

Curried Oxymorons: delicious masala turnips

The butter, coconut and peas lend a delicious sweetness to this turnip dish.

Curried Oxymorons: delicious masala turnips*  

When a turnip* (see shocking update, below)  is mentioned, wise people scream and cry, then fly from the room.  Honestly, what could be worse than a turnip?  I can’t imagine whatever coaxed me to try a masala turnip recipe, but I soon discovered that with a little tweaking here and there, it could be astonishingly delicious.  I serve this dish as the main entr√©, but if you are serving this as a side dish, you can leave out the paneer.
Oxymorons, by the way, are not some kind of idiots, as many people mistakenly assume.  An oxymoron, she says in her shrillest classroom voice, is a short phrase that contains apparently opposite terms, yet has a deeper meaning.  Delicious turnips, jumbo shrimp, bitter sweet, the list goes on.  Meanwhile, here’s the recipe:

The Masala
1 heaping teaspoon cumin seed
1 heaping teaspoon coriander seed
½ teaspoon whole allspice
1 large cinnamon stick
1 heaping teaspoon fennel seed
2 black cardamom, husked and slightly pulverized
3 cloves
½ heaping teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon ajwain seed (celery)
¼ heaping teaspoon fenugreek seed
½ heaping teaspoon turmeric powder 

On medium heat, in the non-stick pan you will use for this dish, gently roast all of the above ingredients, except the turmeric powder.  When they give off a bit of smoke and fragrance, take off the heat and pour into a spice grinder, but leave the cinnamon in the pan.  Add the turmeric powder to the grinder, and then grind those spices to a fine powder.  Set aside.
The vegetables

1 tablespoon mustard oil (with the whole cinnamon stick)
1 teaspoon dark mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 red onion, diced
1 inch of ginger, cut into matchsticks
5 garlic cloves
3 jalapeno peppers (less if very hot)
½ habanero pepper, very finely diced (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter available in jars)
1 turnip, peeled and cubed into bite sized pieces
¼ cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
½ cup water
¾ cup frozen paneer cubes  (Indian cheese available in Indian grocery stores and at Superstore)
½ cup frozen green peas
10 stalks cilantro, washed
2 small limes, juiced 
Once the spices are in the grinder, put the pan back on the stove with the cinnamon stick still in it, and increase the heat to medium high.  When the pan is hot, add the oil, then the mustard seeds.  When they start to sizzle and pop, add the cumin seeds and let cook for a few moments.  When they turn white, add the onion and ginger to the pan, stir and turn down the heat to medium low.  While these are softening and caramelizing, chop the garlic and jalapenos together.  If the peppers are not too hot, you can use a fairly rough chop, but go finer if they are very hot.  If you are using the half a habanero, you may want to seed it, and for sure you’ll want to cut it into almost imperceptible ribbons, and chop those finely.  Turn on the hood vent, and add these to the pan, and cook till the garlic softens.  Add the ground masala, and the ghee.  I’d like to claim this is a healthy dish, but this much ghee is a little shocking…  This is a high fibre , vitamin and mineral dish though…

Fry the masala on medium low heat.  Peel and cube the turnip, and add to the masala along with the coconut.  This is a dry curry which needs to be stirred about every five minutes.  Watch carefully that nothing burns, but that the masala and turnip caramelise a little in all that clarified butter.  This is a good time to start the rice.  When the rice and water start to boil, use that as your signal to add the water to the turnip, and cover well.  By the time the rice is cooked, about twenty minutes later, add the frozen paneer to the turnip, stir and cover.  Fluff the cooked rice, and add the frozen peas to the turnip, cover again.  These take only a couple of minutes to cook.  Wash the cilantro and using scissors, cut the stalks and leaves onto the turnip.  Pour on the lime juice and stir.  Serve over the rice, and enjoy this seemingly impossible oxymoronic delicious turnip recipe.

*Shocking Update: June 8, 2012   I confess I didn't know the difference between a turnip and a rutabaga!  I tried this dish with the smaller, purple and white objects actually known as turnips, and I screamed and cried and fled out of the room.  Tip:  use rutabaga! 


  1. I know I'm in the minority but I love turnips. With this recipe I might get my friends hooked. Do you think this would work O.K. with rutabaga, another of my favourites?

  2. Oh oh, I confess that I never know the difference between the two. When I say turnip, I'm referring to the larger vegetable that is fairly yellow. Is it a turnip? A rutabaga? I think one is sweeter than the other, and the one I use is not sweet at all. The sweeter one could be too sweet. I'd use less cinnamon on that one, but try it never the less! Let me know if it works out.

  3. I've never been able to figure out why anybody thinks turnips are food (my apologies to Susan above, but I just don't get it!). But I've been served sweet potatoes (another non-food, in my previous opinion), cooked Indian-style by a Canadian I know, and loved them. I guess I'll have to try this recipe too. Mary, you're expanding my world again!


  4. Jeanne, let me know what you think of the turnip. Weirdly, I've gone off the sweet potato. I've found a masala pumpkin recipe on another blog, and will try that as soon as I get my hands on one. I may have to use a squash. If it is as good as I think it will be, I'll link to that lady's blog to share it with you.

  5. that snow for real???OMG!No wonder you love spices...thanks for stopping by baketitude...and I hope you really find and try out recipes you loove
    PS if you can handle the heat , why dont you try...

    I like...Mustard oil yay!! fave...and so so healthy!

  6. Yes, the snow is for real. It's a terror. Will try your lamb curry by the way. I love your blog, and will be linking to it asap!