Baby Turnip Fairytale- Turnip and Chicken Tagine with Green Olives and Preserved Lemon

I pride myself on loving strong flavours.  I like gamey meat, fishy fish, aged cheese, spice, all things fermented and pickled, bitterness and sourness in my sweetness.  So, I really want to love turnips.  But I just don’t.  I love radishes and parsnips, but I find turnips very difficult to deal with.  They are very…turnip flavoured.  This does not prevent me from being taken in by the beauty and cuteness of baby turnips every spring.  I love the greens and cook them up with collards or in gumbo z’herbs.  But the poor, pretty little turnips often just wither in my fridge.
This year I was compelled, once again, to buy these beautiful baby turnips (I mean LOOK at them) and more determined than ever to find a way to cook them.  Did you know that turnips are featured very prominantly in old weird fairytales?  I recenlty read an article about all of the “newly discovered fairytales” that were recently published and it included a story about the Turnip princess.  You can read it here.  Turnips are a magic vegetable and I wanted to eat them dammit!
This year, my turnips did not  wither!  This year, I made a turnip tagine. My theory was that the strong flavours or green olives and preserved lemon would balance out the turnip flavour.  Sadly, when I first tasted the stew, I didn’t like it.  It was very turnip flavoured.  The stew withered in my fridge for a few days before I ate it.  I cannot stand to waste food though, so after a few days I warmed it up, determined to eat my yearly Spring dose of turnip.  It turns out that something wonderful had happened to the stew as it sat there waiting to be eaten.  It had transformed into something delicious!  The strong flavours of the turnip, green olives and preserved lemon had blended and balanced just as I hoped they would!  It’s a turnip Fairytale!
Tagines are usually served with couscous, which I cannot eat.  Whether you eat gluten or not I HIGHLY recommend serving this stew with a baked chick pea pancake (Socca).  It is not traditional but the sweet nutty flavour of  the chickpea is perfect with this stew.  One Socca is enough for two people.  You can find the recipe for Socca by clicking here.  Scroll down for the Tagine recipe.
  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Some Turmeric and or Saffron might be nice here as well
  • 2 tomatoes (about 12 oz) cut into 1-inch wedges
  • ½ preserved lemon, finely sliced
  • 15 green olives, pitted
  • One small chicken (2.5 -3 pounds) cut into 8 pieces
  • 12 baby turnips, with greens
  • fresh chopped cilantro for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a heavy casserole with a lid, fry the onion in oil for two minutes.
  3. Add the spices and toss for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the tomatoes, preserved lemon, olives and chicken.  Turn the chicken to coat it in the seasonings winding up with the skin sides up.  Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
  5. Turn the chicken over, and continue baking uncovered for 25 minutes, until the chicken is almost done.
  6. While the chicken is cooking, trim and scrub the baby turnips, saving the greens. Cut the turnips in half and set aside.  Thinly slice the greens and set them aside.
  7. Remove the cover and turn the chicken over again (skin side up again). Tuck the turnips under the chicken and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes, until the turnips are tender and the chicken is golden on top. Stir in the turnip greens, and cook uncovered for 3 minutes more, until the greens wilt.  Let it blend for a few days before serving with Baked Chick Pea Pancakes.


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Glenda says:

    I wonder if you inherited your turnip taste aversion from me. Grandpa used to serve turnips mashed with lots of butter, but I never liked the them. With our genetic roots in Ireland and Estonia, we should be big turnip fans, or maybe our ancestors ate our share already! This recipe does sound good. I must say I’ve never met a turnip stew that I liked, but I’m willing to try it if you make it for me. Love, Mum

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