Thursday, 2 February 2012

Cream of Turnip Soup/Şalgam Çorbası ........Turnip Juice/Şalgam Suyu

cream of turnip soup garnished with dried mint and served with crusty bread

innocuous-looking turnips

 I think my  one and only association with turnips was when I was 4 and could read The Three Little Pigs. Didn’t those piggies boil some turnips  in their big black cauldron which the wolf fell into with a mighty splash to make a mouthwatering feast?  

Turnips – şalgam (pron: shull-gum) in Turkish - are not something that I would normally turn to, I must confess, but here in Turkey if you go to the outdoor markets at this time of year, you can’t help but notice the  heaps of root vegetables that probably you’ve never thought twice about in your life. Some of them are turnips.

February is a dull time of the year for the  local markets here in Istanbul.   I haven’t managed to stagger round to my local one  in Selami Çeşme since I got back from Sydney. Put it down to a combination of jetlag and heavy snow.  At the same time I have resisted going to my smart new upmarket Makro Supermarket where everything will be available but wrapped pristinely in copious amounts of clingfilm and plastic boxes. What ‘s the point of living in Turkey if we don’t buy the fresh produce?

Anyway, on with the turnips!
firm and white - surprisingly attractive

My inspiration was from Cornucopia (Issue 43), the beautiful magazine which describes itself as ‘Turkey for Connoisseurs’ , where there is a whole article by Berrin Torolsan devoted to radishes and turnips! Yes! So with enthusiasm I thought I would try this soup. To my surprise, turnips are snow white once peeled;  they make a velvety elegant soup  with a mellow flavour. Next time I will experiment by adding  different roots such as carrots or beetroot for extra taste. Avoid celeriac as it would overpower the mild turnip.

Ingredients for Cream of Turnip Soup/Şalgam Çorbası

Serves 4

2 or 3 small turnips/şalgam

1 medium onion

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp sugar

2 cups stock (optional) or water


1 tbsp rice (rinsed)


Dried or fresh mint to garnish


·         Trim, peel  and roughly chop the turnips and onion.

·         Heat the butter in a soup pan. Add the turnips and onion with the sugar and stir-fry. Taking care they don’t burn, keep stirring the vegetables until they begin to caramelise and turn golden brown at the edges.

looks great, doesn't it?

·         Pour 2 cups of cold water or stock if using, into the pan. Add the rice, season and leave, covered, to simmer over a gentle heat for about 20 mins. When the vegetables are cooked and the rice grains have expanded and are soft, remove from the heat.

·         Use your stick blender to mix. Pass through a sieve to remove any remaining lumps. At this stage the soup will still be fairly thick. Dilute to the desired consistency by adding milk.

·         Stirring, reheat the soup without letting it come to the boil, and taste to adjust the seasoning. It should have a slightly sweet, chestnut edge.

·         Serve hot with a small knob of butter in each bowl, if you like, and sprinkle with dried or fresh mint.

cream of turnip soup ready to eat

Afiyet olsun!

ruby-red turnip juice

Now, if you’re feeling adventurous, how about some şalgam suyu or turnip juice? It’s very different and that’s putting it mildly. It’s a southern Turkey speciality from Adana where it’s served with the famous kebabs.  The deep ruby colour is fabulous and comes from the dark, deep-purple carrots which are only available in the southern parts of Anatolia. These, along with turnips, one slice of stale bread and salt and a little citric acid are covered with liquid that has been brought to the boil and left for a week or 10 days. You’ll probably hate this drink first time round but then it grows on you. A most particular taste!

I’m not even going to give the recipe as I don’t envisage anyone making it at home. Where would we get those carrots, for a start? It’s the kind of drink to order when you are at a kebapcı or a traditional Turkish restaurant – who knows, you may love it!
The photo on the right was taken at the delightfully traditional Zeyrekhane in Zeyrek, Istanbul, where my friend Elizabeth bravely ordered it!