About two years ago, a friend gave us a load of turnips, grown in his back garden. I was only a recent convert to the turnip, I must admit. For years, I only associated it with a soggy, mushy and flavourless mass heaped on to a plate next to boiled meat. It did nothing for me.
Then I had my partner Brian’s salt-baked drunken turnip at our restaurant. What a revelation. Cooked well, the vegetable is soft, yes, but dry, not soggy. There is a hint of liquorice and a crispness to a well-cooked turnip that makes it at once sharp and sweet.
Still, faced with a crate full of the stuff, I wasn’t sure what to do. Then inspiration struck. I love proper, no-cream carbonara. That particular evening I just craved the lovely unctuousness of the uncooked egg on the strands of spaghetti, and I had a feeling the sharpness of the turnip would blend well with the silkiness of the egg. The sage and hazelnut, I surmised, would class it up a bit. I was right. It was divine.
What you’ll need:
80g crushed or chopped hazelnuts
1 tbsp olive oil
6 sage leaves, chop five and keep one for garnish
3 large eggs
70g Parmesan, grated
Enough spaghetti for four people
Salt and pepper
How to make it:
1. Peel and dice the turnip into very small cubes. Sauté in half the butter and a tablespoon of olive oil, until just soft. I like the turnip to be a little on the crunchy side.
2. Sprinkle the hazelnuts into the pan and finish with diced sage, leaving some to add at the end, and a whole sage leaf for garnish. Set aside.
3. In a bowl, beat the eggs with a spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste, and most of the Parmesan.
4. In a small saucepan, melt the remaining butter then take it off the heat.
5. Cook the spaghetti to your desired tenderness, then drain it. Put the spaghetti in a serving bowl. Do not put the spaghetti back into the hot pot or the frying pan used for cooking the turnip, as the hot pans could cause the eggs to scramble.
6. Mix the turnip and hazelnuts into the spaghetti. Add the melted butter and finally add the egg and Parmesan, mixing thoroughly until all the strands of spaghetti are coated in the sauce. Add some freshly ground pepper and more Parmesan, and the rest of the sage.
Jenny Holland is co-owner of Bia Rebel ramen restaurant in Belfast.