Shaped like a sputnik, with curious tentacle-like leaves and a name that sounds as if it came from Star Wars, kohlrabi is a strange wee beastie of a vegetable. It's not something you see often in the shops here in South Africa, I suppose because there's really not much call for it.
Kohlrabi is a hybridised member of the brassica family, and its taste has been variously described as being like celery, turnip, broccoli stem, or a milder version of the heart of a cabbage.
I think kohlrabi has a taste all of its own. It's lovely steamed and stir fried, and in vegetable stews, and lightly curried. Very young kohlrabi, with its crunchy, almost apple-like texture, can be grated or julienned and used in salads, slaws and salsas.
Try it in this refreshing starter, which is most beautifully coloured, with its pale avocado-greens and creams, and its slivers of startling crimson. I found the combination of salty, creamy blue cheese and crisp paper-thin kohlrabi delicious, although my family, I admit, were not immediately bowled over. But they'll come round. They'll have to, because I intend to place this vegetable on the family menu more often. This recipe is adapted from Anton Mosimann's 1991 book Naturally.
You do need a mandolin to produce the paper-thin, transparent slices called for in this recipe. If you don't have one, use a sharp knife to cut the thinnest possible slices. Or coarsely grate the kohlrabi and radishes. Or cut them into matchsticks before you toss them in the dressing.
I haven't specified the amount of blue cheese, because this is entirely up to you. But less is best here, I think, because the taste of the kohlrabi is quite delicate.
'Carpaccio' of Kohlrabi with Radishes and Blue Cheese
2 small, young kohlrabi
6 young radishes
4 Tbsp (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
4 tsp (20 ml) white wine vinegar, or white balsamic vinegar
a pinch of Hot English mustard powder
blue cheese (Gorgonzola, Roquefort, or whatever you fancy)
flaky sea salt
freshly milled black pepper
Strip the leaves off the kohlrabi and cut off the tops and bottoms. Using a mandolin, cut the bulbs into paper-thin slices. Do the same with the radishes. Arrange the kohlrabi and radish slices on a platter, or on individual salad plates. Whisk the olive oil, white wine vinegar and mustard powder together in a small bowl, and drizzle the dressing over the slices. Season well with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese.