Tonight I was inspired to create a home-cooked meal, after many nights of eating out or ordering in. (Don’t worry, we’ve been choosing good options! Everything is so cheap, it’s the same amount to buy cheap food out as it is to buy all the bits and pieces to cook at home – unless you want to eat instant noodles, soup or toast… yes, we’ve done that a few times too.)
I was curious about kohlrabi (the green vegetable that looks like a turnip and tastes something like a broccoli stem merged with a cabbage, but nicer.)
We are both big pasta fans, so I decided to make a pasta dish featuring kohlrabi (stick with me, I know it’s weird idea… but wait, someone else has done this! In SICILY! I found this blog post AFTER I began cooking… I knew I was Italian-blooded somehow!)
I learned about pasta and vegetables (without sauces, just olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper) from B’s brother in law (he’s Italian) when we had pasta with broccoli one night at their place. It was so delicious and simple, we both loved it.
Turns out that kohlrabi is just as useful and even tastier than broccoli! And that’s saying a lot, considering I adore broccoli. It’s my all-time favourite vegetable.
So, the start of the experimental dinner was as follows:
– 1 kohlrabi, peeled and sliced (in retrospect I should have cut it up smaller but it was fine)
– 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (four might seem excessive, but I love it)
– 1 brown onion, finely chopped
– a little bit of butter; perhaps a large-ish teaspoon? OK, maybe 2.
– big splash of olive oil; good quality of course!
I put these ingredients in a big wok (as we have the worst-equipped kitchen in Budapest and the frying pan is stupid, small and everything sticks to it) on low heat and kind of sautéed it all. Added not-quite-a-teaspoon of dried parsley, Hungarian paprika, dried basil, salt, then a few good grinds of tri-colour pepper. (Fresh herbs are hard to get at the moment, and expensive by local standards.)
I read online that after sautéing, the kohlrabi needs to be cooked/braised until it’s soft, so I just covered it all in boiling water and let it simmer for a while.
This ended up reducing once and the kohlrabi wasn’t soft enough, so I added a splash of my white wine (on a whim; I’m like that), cooked that off, then added some more boiling water.
While it was simmering again, I sliced up a red capsicum (my second favourite vegetable), and put the pasta on to cook. I used thick spaghetti.
Popped the capsicum into the vegie/spice mix, added another good splash of olive oil and stirred it pretty much constantly while the pasta cooked, to emulsify the oil and the watery-ness of the mixture. (I really like the word ’emulsify’. It’s so clever and scientific.)
Once it had reduced down to a sort of runny sauce, I drained the pasta and added that, stirring it through completely so it was coated in the olive oil, herbs and vegies.
I served it with a few little chunks of goat’s cheese (‘chevre’ was on the packet – I got quite excited in the over-priced gourmet supermarket) and B got a packet of paraszt kolbász (Hungarian sausage, sliced very thinly – could easily be mistaken for little salami but has more of a… continental sausage flavour…? to it than salami) and we put a few slices of that in each bowl.
The result was actually delicious, if I do say so myself. I even have B’s word that it was so good, I “should open up a fusion kitchen, honey!” I love to be experimental in the kitchen. The key to going out on a food-limb, if you like, is to take ideas from a few recipes, to not go overboard on things like spices or salt (you can add more later!) and consider which flavours you know go well together. Now, in this instance, I didn’t know much about kohlrabi. I glanced at one recipe where you sauté it with garlic and butter, then braise it in chicken stock, drain and serve with lemon, so I thought the flavour of the goat’s cheese might work with it… Turns out a little piece of soft, hot kohlrabi with a smear of goat’s cheese was really damn good.