In the old days in Delhi, when everyone ate seasonal vegetables, turnips were often on the menu in the colder months. This member of the Brassica family has long been valued on the Sub-Continent as a vegetable that can be paired with stronger leafy vegetables like mustard greens or more expensive ingredients like meats.
It can also be salted and dried; I clearly remember strings of turnip slices and cauliflower florets laid out to dry on terraces in the winter sun, to be preserved for the rest of the year. Historical records suggest that wild forms of turnip were grown in India as far back as 1500 BC for their oil bearing seeds but these days it is mainly the bulbous root that is consumed.
Shalgam gosht is said to have its origins in Kashmir but was commonly prepared by other North Indian communities in Delhi, as I remember. It is rarely offered on restaurant menus which is a real pity. Here is my interpretation of this wonderful dish – I do hope you try it.
Cooking Time: 2 hours (or 30 minutes if pressure cooking)
You will need:
- 400 g of turnips, peeled and cut into segments about 1″ thick
- 500 g of lamb with bones, curry cut from an Asian butcher (the bones give the dish extra flavour)
- 3 tbsp mustard oil
- 4 cloves
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 2 tbsp ground fennel seeds (freshly prepared is best)
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
Sprinkle some salt on the turnip pieces and set them aside to sweat – this is meant to remove bitterness and harmful elements from them. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed casserole dish (that can be put in the oven later) or in a pressure cooker on the high setting on your hob. Let the oil reach smoking point to remove the acrid taste – this is important – mustard oil is traditionally heated and cooled before storing but if you have raw mustard oil, heating it in this way will do. Add the cloves and cumin, let these splutter and release their aroma. Now add the garlic, give this a stir and add the turmeric. Before the turmeric can burn, add the meat and stir so that all the pieces are coated with the spice. Now lower the heat and add the turnips and the remaining spices. Stir to coat the turnip pieces with the spices. Add half a litre of water or just enough to cover the lamb and turnip pieces. Season, cover and cook in a medium oven for an hour or until the lamb pieces are tender. The turnip will cook faster than the lamb and will be quite soft so take care not to break it while checking if the lamb is done. If using a pressure cooker, ten minutes on a high setting will suffice. The gravy for this dish is traditionally very thin but if you like a thicker gravy, then use a little bit of corn-starch mixed in water to thicken it