Potatoes and carrots are the country’s go-to root vegetables, with the former representing Canada’s largest vegetable crop and the latter being one of the most consumed vegetables per capita, at nearly nine kilograms annually, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s 2012 crop profile.
These statistics beg the question: what about all the other root vegetables?
Thanks to Carla Kelly’s latest cookbook, True to Your Roots: Vegan Recipes to Comfort and Nourish You, vegans and non-vegans alike can open their eyes—and their mouths—to tasty alternatives like turnips, celeriac, yuca, and lotus root.
Kelly’s journey into vegan cooking began 10 years ago when her daughter was born with a severe dairy allergy.
“At the time I was vegetarian, and the thinking was, ‘I’ll just not eat dairy while I’m nursing.’ I did a lot of research about eating healthy as a vegan, and it just resonated with me,” Kelly says in an interview at her Burnaby home.
The most positive change she experienced during her transition from being vegetarian to vegan was “an initial feeling of lightness—not just in the physical being, but in the spiritual being as well,” she says. “I felt much more in touch with myself, and as things have gone on, my health is grand.”
Kelly experimented with different recipes and wrote many of her own, often blogging about the results and photographing her creations. In 2011, she released her first cookbook, Quick and Easy Vegan Bake Sale: More Than 150 Delicious Sweet and Savory Vegan Treats Perfect for Sharing.
“I found that the vegan-cookbook market was quite saturated, so I needed to find a niche idea,” Kelly says of the process. Her next cookbooks, Quick and Easy Vegan Slow Cooking and Vegan Al Fresco, followed suit, focusing on very specific types of food preparation.
So what compelled her to write about the forgotten relatives of the beloved potato?
“A couple of years ago, everything was about kale and leafy greens, and I thought about all these other vegetables that weren’t getting any love,” Kelly recalls. “Roots are the vegetables we eat every day. They’re the ones our mothers and grandmothers have always made, so we accept them as being an afterthought—something that’s simply meant to be a side dish—but they shouldn’t be.”
Kelly uses a wide variety of lesser-known root veggies such as jicama, turnip, rutabaga, parsnip, daikon, and kohlrabi (featured in the recipe below) to create everything from soups and enchiladas to cakes and brownies. The author loves kohlrabi, a popular vegetable in German-speaking countries, for its ability to be eaten raw as well as cooked. She even uses the leaves as a garnish for her potato and kohlrabi rosti. Kelly says that any root vegetable that can be eaten raw (parsnips, carrots, or sunchokes are a few examples) can be used as a substitute for the kohlrabi. The rosti is crispy on the outside but tender on the inside.
Carla Kelly’s Potato and Kohlrabi Rosti
8 oz (227 g) red-skinned potatoes (peeling optional)
6 oz (170 g) kohlrabi, peeled and grated
4 tsp (20 mL) potato starch
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) dried dill
1/4 tsp (1 mL) dried thyme
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp (30 mL) neutral-flavoured oil such as grape seed
1. Fill medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil.
2. Using a box grater or food processor, coarsely grate potato. Blanch potato shreds by adding to boiling water and returning water to a boil. Drain and immediately rinse under cold water until cool to touch. Drain again.
3. Squeeze excess water from blanched potatoes with your hands (they will be a little slimy) and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add kohlrabi, starch, salt, dill, thyme, and pepper. Mix well.
4. In a medium frying pan on medium to medium-high, heat oil. Have ready a second frying pan or plate that fits inside first frying pan. When oil is hot, add potato-kohlrabi mixture to pan and spread to edges. Place second frying pan (or plate) on top to flatten as rosti cooks. You may need to place something heavy, such as a glass mixing bowl, on top of the pan or plate. Fry for 10 to 12 minutes, until bottom and sides are golden brown and crisp.
5. Invert onto plate, slice into wedges, and serve.
Yield: 2 servings. Recipe has not been tested by the Georgia Straight.
Adapted from True to Your Roots: Vegan Recipes to Comfort and Nourish You (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2015). Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.