Is kohlrabi still cool? I discovered the vegetable for the first time when we opened Aniar 11 years ago. Of course, this freshness was born from the fact that Noma, the hyperlocal Danish restaurant, had championed it in so many dishes.
Little did I know that Florence Irwin, a champion of local Irish cooking in the 1940s, included a beet and kohlrabi salad in her 1949 cookbook The Cookin’ Woman: Irish Country Recipes. I recommend it to anyone interested in Irish cuisine. You can get a hard copy online for €50 or a hard copy for just €5.
What I love about his book is that he combines a love of food with an interest in ethnography (the study of culture). It is also an incredible historical record of Irish cuisine in the mid-twentieth century.
Florence Irwin’s Beet and Kohlrabi Salad
I adapted this recipe and it appeared in my own Irish Cook Book. Peel and slice two kohlrabi and two beets on a mandolin. Make the kohlrabi first because you won’t have to rinse the mandolin. If you don’t have a mandolin, slice as thinly as possible with a good chef’s knife. Cut into strips and lightly salt, leave in a colander for five to 10 minutes.
Squeeze the vegetables lightly, rinse them and transfer them to a large salad bowl. Irwin’s original recipe includes watercress, of which there are plenty in the wild. However, any herb will do, from parsley to tarragon or basil. Chop the grass and add it to the beets and kohlrabi.
For the seasoning, just do it by eye: cold-pressed rapeseed oil, honey, apple cider vinegar and a little sea salt. Mix everything and dress it with some aromatic herbs. You can also add grated cheese to the salad if you like. A good smoked cheese would do, like Gubbeen or Knockanore. Additionally, a spoonful of sour cream or plain yogurt will elevate the salad to greater heights.
With the good weather coming, this salad will go perfectly with barbecued fish and meat.