While in Paris this May I went with friends to Septime, a restaurant très à la mode in the 11th arrondissement. Well this isn’t a review about the food, perhaps another time, but the first course included kohlrabi or chou-rave as I discovered it is called in French. Kohlrabi is a type of cabbage, not a celery as the French name would have it. Nor it is a turnip or a root. It is a stem is swollen into a turnip shape. The name comes from Germany where they love it.
Very thin slices covered a big fat white asparagus, that wasn’t quite cooked enough for my taste and there was a dollop of honey on the side to counteract the kohlrabi’s bitterness. The dish was interesting, not great, then I went to London. London and kohlrabi aren’t obviously related until you think of Yotam Ottolenghi.
I share a bond with Yotam, we both lost out to the fabulous Molly Stevens in the cookbook awards, so I had to see just what he was up to. I visited his Belgravia store where I fell in love with the roasted beetroot and rhubarb salad. The next day I had lunch with a friend who had picked up all the food from the same store. At lunch it was the dressing on the green salad that stole my attention. I wanted his book, Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes From London’s Ottolenghi. I bought the original edition with weights, not cups.
His cabbage and kohlrabi salad caught my attention, see this story is going somewhere. I had all the ingredients on hand, except of course the kohlrabi. The mixture of cabbage, kohlrabi, dried sour cherries and alfalfa sprouts with lots of dill, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic salt and pepper was very good. Now I am taking kohlrabi seriously.
Grigson notes as well as being a popular in Eastern Europe, kohlrabi is beloved in Israel. That no doubt explains Yotam’s deft hand. Give it a try, but be mindful of Grigson’s advice and buy kohlrabis (yes it sounds odd but it’s one kohlrabi, two kohlrabis) sized somewhere between a golf and a tennis ball, any bigger and it will be as tough.