A cold and crisp but clear, bright morning. After weeks of rich and hearty fare, suddenly something lighter is calling. A salad for this deep and rather damp mid-winter.
First time I tasted kohlrabi it was part of a tray of roasted veggies. It was, to say the least, wrong. Enough to put you off for life. But with a good nutritional profile, a card-carrying membership to the cabbage family and the potential for some much needed winter crunch I’m not prepared to give up, at least not that easily. Turns out it’s a vegetable best tackled raw or at most, cooked hastily. That way the texture, closely aligned with the crunch of water chestnuts and fresh, crisp Granny Smith apples, has room to stretch out and shine.
Traditionally remoulade is made with celeriac, that other swollen stemmed vegetable, mustard and mayonnaise. Kohlrabi it seems loves mustard as much as both celeriac and I. And so this layered plate, better for a light weekend lunch than a winter dinner, is just right. Untraditional avocado and sweet chilli sauce act as a foil to all that richness; a kick to get your tastebuds jumping. Though tomatoes are out of season, their acid red is much needed to cut through both the richness of the mayonnaise and the dull winter light. Besides, organic cherry ones seem to be everywhere at the moment.
Having just bought a small bottle of the freshest hazelnut oil I’ve tasted, home-made mayo was the way to go. Use a good commercial brand by all means but, to my great surprise, the vegan mayo (recipe below) works exceptionally well here.
Kohlrabi remoulade – a salad for winter
For 2-3, depending on your appetite. Adapted from a recipe by Nadine Abensur.
These knobbly veggies come in two colours, purple and apple green. Both taste exactly the same. It's awfully good. The kohlrabi is crisp, mustardy and excellent on its own; the avocado and tomato are buttery and sweet-hot. A gorgeous combination.
For the remoulade:
2 small-ish, kohlrabi, thickly peeled
2 heaped tablespoons of good quality mayonnaise (see below)
3 fat green olives, pitted and finely chopped
1 small clove of garlic, crushed
Small palmful of hazelnuts, roasted, cooled and chopped
2 teaspoons of grain mustard
Sea salt and pepper
For the salsa:
3 small tomatoes (or a good handful of cherry ones)
1 ½ tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce
1 ripe but firm large Hass avocado
1 ½ tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (optional)
1 tablespoon of parsley, very finely chopped (optional)
Handful of leaves (rocket, spinach, whatever you like)
For the remoulade: Grate the kohlrabi coarsely (nothing fancy, just your normal cheese grater). Place the kohlrabi in a bowl and add the mayonnaise, chopped olives, garlic, hazelnuts and grain mustard. Season with a little salt and pepper and mix well. Set aside.
For the salsa: Chop the tomatoes small, place in a bowl with their juices and stir through the sweet chilli sauce. Peel and cut the avocado into 2.5 cm (1 inch) dice. Add to the tomato mixture, taste for seasoning (adding a little more sweet chill if need be) and stir gently to just combine. Set aside.
Mix the extra virgin olive oil and parsley together – this is really is just gilding the lily; leave it out if you can’t be bothered.
Divide the leaves between two or three plates (depending, of course, on how many you are). Place a mound of the salsa on top. Carefully place a mound of the remoulade on top of this. Drizzle a little of the parsley oil if you’re using it around the plate and serve at once.
Based on Stephanie Alexander’s proportions in the Cook’s Companion. Slowly, slowly is the key to success with mayonnaise. Makes about 1 cup.
2 really fresh, organic, free-range egg yolks
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
Pinch of sea salt
150ml of light olive oil (this is important – a heavy extra virgin oil will taste all wrong)
50ml of extra virgin or hazelnut oil
By hand: (and best if you have a friend to pour…)
Time to get out the balloon whisk. Sit a damp cloth on the bench top. Place a roomy bowl on top and start by whisking the egg yolks with the mustard and salt. When they are well combined, start adding the oils very, very slowly, drop, by drop, whisking like a person possessed constantly. After one third of the oil has been added, you can start to add the oil in a very thin stream, still whisking. Adjust seasoning to taste and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
In a blender, a food processor or cake mixer to which you have attached the whisking device. The latter is by far the easiest way and gives the best results, but all require the same method as above. The blender and processor will give you a thinner mayonnaise; the cake mixer method ends up thick and unctuous, just like a real hand-made mayonnaise should be. It’s just that your wrist won’t end up disowning you.
A vegan mayonnaise:
This is lovely, and just as good as any egg mayo, though not quite as rich. The ratio of oils can be changed to suit your recipe, and the amount of mustard reduced. It’s way easier too. Makes about 1 cup.
200g of silken tofu, blotted dry with kitchen paper (a little more or less won’t matter)
50ml of light olive oil
30ml of hazelnut oil
1 heaped tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
Sea salt and pepper
Place the tofu and oils in a food processor or blender and whiz until smooth. Scrape down the sides and add the remaining ingredients. Whiz again, taste for seasoning and keep in the fridge until you need it. Keeps for about 1 week.