Loving the alien: Yotam Ottolenghi’s kohlrabi recipes (2024)

If, as I suggested last month, the artichoke is the hand grenade of the vegetable world, then kohlrabi is the sputnik. With its multiple long, thin stems sprouting from a swollen, globe-shaped base, it looks very weird indeed, like something from outer space.

For something so odd-looking, however, its flavour is very mild-mannered and neutral. If you’ve never tried kohlrabi, do give it a go. It belongs to the cabbage family and, eaten raw, tastes a bit like a mild sweet radish or cauliflower stalk. Thinly shaved, or cut into batons or dice, and added to a slaw or stir-fry, kohlrabi is crunchy and refreshing, with a little peppery kick for added interest. I love to eat young kohlrabi raw at this time of the year, and slow-cook the larger bulbs in the colder months, especially in a creamy gratin.

Kohlrabi and lime salad

Possibly the most amount of flavour packed into one of the shortest recipes I’ve ever written. Serves four, generously.

3 small kohlrabi, peeled and cut into 5mm x 5cm batons (500g net weight)
2 granny smith apples, peeled and cut into 5mm x 5cm batons
2 green chillies, deseeded and julienned
15g picked coriander leaves
15g picked mint leaves
10g tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
2 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1½ tbsp black sesame seeds
Finely grated zest of 1 lime, plus 2½ tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp groundnut oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
80g creme fraiche
1 tsp sesame oil

Put all the ingredients apart from the creme fraiche and sesame oil in a big bowl with three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt. Stir well, then divide between four plates. Spoon creme fraiche on top, followed by a little drizzle of sesame oil, and serve at once. (See, simple.)

Spicy aubergine with kohlrabi and coconut

Serve this with warm naan bread or poppadoms, and maybe some plain rice. Serves four to six.

120ml sunflower oil
1 medium kohlrabi, peeled and cut into 5cm-long and 1cm-thick wedges
2 large onions, peeled and cut into 2cm-thick wedges
3 aubergines, cut into 7cm-long and 3cm-thick wedges
¾ tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp black mustard seeds
4 whole sprigs fresh curry leaves (about 30 leaves)
2 large tomatoes, cut into 2cm-thick wedges
80g fresh coconut, finely grated (ie, the flesh from roughly half a small coconut)
220g Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp lime juice
20g coriander leaves, roughly chopped

For the spice paste
4 large stalks lemongrass, woody ends and outer layer removed and discarded, very finely chopped
6cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
6 fresh kaffir lime leaves
1 red chilli, roughly chopped
1 dried red chilli, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small banana shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
90ml sunflower oil

Put all the spice paste ingredients apart from the oil in a food processor. With the motor running, slowly add half the oil and process until you have a paste, stopping the machine and scraping the sides of the bowl as you go. Set aside (the remaining three tablespoons of oil will be used to fry the paste later).

Heat a tablespoon and a half of oil in a large-heavy based saucepan or saute pan for which you have a lid, and put on a medium-high heat. Add the kohlrabi and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until it starts to soften and turn a dark golden-brown. Tip into a large bowl.

Pour another tablespoon and a half of oil into the pan, add the onion and saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden-brown. Add to the kohlrabi bowl.

Add the last of the oil to the pan and fry the aubergines for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until soft and golden-brown, but still holding their shape. Stir in the turmeric, cumin and a teaspoon and a half of salt, cook for two minutes, then add the mustard seeds, cook for a minute and add to the kohlrabi bowl.

Wipe clean the pan and put on a medium-low heat. Add the reserved oil from the spice paste and, when hot, add the paste and fry gently for about 25 minutes, stirring often, until it takes on a nice golden colour. Add the curry leaves and tomatoes, cook for five minutes, then add the fried vegetables and 400ml cold water. Cover and cook on a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

To serve, divide the curry into bowls and scatter with coconut. Put a spoonful of yoghurt on each portion (serve the rest on the side), add a squeeze of lime and a sprinkling of coriander, and serve at once.

Kohlrabi kimchi

Kimchi is an acquired taste, but those who enjoy it, myself included, tend to find it addictive, and eat it with just about anything: grilled meat, seafood, or just spooned over a bowl of rice. The longer you leave the kimchi, the more the flavours develop – it will keep in the fridge for several months. Makes about 900g.

3 large kohlrabi, peeled, cut in half horizontally and then into 5mm-thick slices
12 spring onions, trimmed and cut into 4-5cm slices
1½ tbsp caster sugar
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp nanami togarashi (Japanese assorted chilli pepper)
1 tsp fish sauce

Put the kohlrabi and spring onion in a large bowl with the sugar and two teaspoons of salt. Mix and set aside for 45 minutes, stirring once or twice. Drain off any moisture that has leached from the vegetables and add the garlic, ginger, nanami togarashi and fish sauce to the bowl. Mix to combine, cover with cling-film and put somewhere dark and cool for two days. Transfer to a clean airtight container and store in the fridge.

Fritti misti

Loving the alien: Yotam Ottolenghi’s kohlrabi recipes (1)

This is my version of a dish at San Francisco’s legendary Zuni Cafe. Use a mandoline, if you have one, to slice the vegetables as thin as they need to be. You can use any seasonal veg you fancy; most will work really well, just as they do for tempura. The batter’s good with seafood, too. Serves four.

120g plain flour
120g semolina
1¼ tbsp coriander seeds, roughly crushed
1¼ tbsp whole aniseed, roughly crushed
400g buttermilk
1 litre sunflower oil, for frying
1 medium kohlrabi, peeled, trimmed and cut into 5mm-wide rounds
1 medium desiree potato, peeled and cut lengthways into 3mm-wide rounds
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and cut lengthways into 5mm-wide slices
1 lemon, cut into 2mm-thick slices, plus 4 lemon halves for squeezing
20 large sage leaves
40g capers, rinsed and patted dry

Put the flour, semolina, coriander, aniseed and a teaspoon and a quarter of salt in a shallow bowl. Mix well and set aside. Pour the buttermilk into a separate shallow bowl.

Pour the oil into a large saucepan and put on a medium-high heat for five to six minutes, until it reaches 160C (if you have one, use a probe or thermometer to check). While the oil is warming, dip the kohlrabi a slice at time into first the buttermilk and then the flour, just so it’s roughly covered. Once all the kohlrabi is battered, carefully drop the slices into the oil in batches of about eight and fry for two to three minutes, turning once halfway through, until golden-brown on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a wire rack lined with kitchen paper; transfer to a medium oven to keep hot while you repeat with the remaining kohlrabi.

Batter and cook the potato, fennel, lemon and sage in the same way: the potato and fennel will take two to three minutes, the lemon one to two minutes and the sage only about 30 seconds. Don’t worry if they are not evenly covered by the batter: the finished dish looks better if you can see some of the vegetable through the crisp coating.

Once all the vegetables are fried, add the capers to the oil (ie, don’t dip them in the buttermilk and flour first) and fry on a medium heat for a minute, until they open up like flowers and go crisp. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and add to the vegetables. Transfer the fritti misti to a large platter or individual plates, and serve with the lemon halves to squeeze over.

Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of Ottolenghi and Nopi in London.

  • This article was amended on 14 July 2015 to update the photographs with a more recent shoot.
Loving the alien: Yotam Ottolenghi’s kohlrabi recipes (2024)
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