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Spud Sunday: Neeps And Tatties

“So, have you done neeps and tatties, then…?”

My colleague was not referring to some strange ritual, but simply wanted to know if I had given the legendary Scottish combination of turnip and potato the Daily Spud treatment, to which I had to answer, well, no, not yet. Until today, that is…

I should first clarify that what the Scots refer to as neeps, or turnips, are what we in Ireland commonly call turnips, but go by the name of swede in England and rutabaga in the US (confused yet?). The turnip I’m talking about is yellow-fleshed and sweet. Here’s a picture, which may be useful for identification purposes later.

Yellow Turnip

Exhibit A: one neep, several tatties

When the Scots talk about neeps and tatties, they mean (yellow) turnip and potatoes, boiled and mashed separately, and traditionally served with haggis as part of a Burns Night supper. I was reminded of the combination when I found myself with a profusion of turnips, due to the fact that they have been turning up, as is their wont, with great regularity in my organic vegetable deliveries.

Now, it has to be said that turnips are not the most popular of vegetables, and I have reported on my difficulties with said vegetable previously. However, I know (as the Scots do) that turnip and potato are good pals and figured that it was about time I tried something a little different with the pair of them. So away with the masher and, instead, I came up with a gratin featuring neeps, tatties and a few, perhaps less traditional, ingredients. Not sure what the Scots would make of it, but I rather liked it all the same.

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Potato and Yellow Turnip Gratin with Lemongrass

Potato And Turnip Gratin

Take a very simple gratin of potato, milk and butter, like the one described by Deb at Smitten Kitchen, add yellow turnip (not such an unusual thing to do) but also throw in some lemongrass, ginger, spring onion and yoghurt (somewhat less than usual, methinks) and you end up here. Which is to say fairly far away from the Scottish notion of neeps and tatties.

The main flavour is the lemongrass, backed up by the ginger, which together provide a nice contrast to the turnip’s sweetness. In this, I took inspiration from Carmel Somers of the The Good Things Café in West Cork, who suggests the turnip plus ginger combination. It’s a fairly light dish, lacking the cheese and/or cream you often find in potato gratins, and using milk and yoghurt instead. And, sure, no harm in that.

The Summary:

  • Makes side-dish servings for 5-6, or feeds 3-4 if serving as a lunch dish on its own. I will admit to having eaten half of this quantity at one sitting, but that might not be the best yardstick to use (unless, of course, I am one of those people that you are feeding, in which case, take note). Takes approx. 30 min to prep + 1 hour to bake.
You’ll need:
  • 600g potatoes (about 3 medium-sized specimens), preferably a waxy variety
  • 450g yellow turnip / swede
  • 1.5l water
  • 1.5 tsp salt plus more for sprinking on the gratin
  • 3 tblsp butter, divided
  • 6 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tblsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 stick lemongrass
  • 150g natural yoghurt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 300ml whole milk
You’ll also need:
  • A gratin dish, mine was 30cm x 24cm and about 5cm deep. A mandoline is useful for slicing the potatoes and turnips, though not essential, and a spice or coffee grinder is useful for grinding the lemongrass, otherwise you’ll need a very sharp knife so that you can chop it very finely.
The Steps:
  • Preheat your oven to 180C.
  • Peel the potatoes and the turnip and slice both very thinly – if you have a mandoline, by all means use it to do the job for you.
  • Bring about 1.5l water to the boil in a medium-sized saucepan, add about 1.5 tsp salt and the sliced turnip. Allow to boil for about a minute, then drain.
  • Slice the first 10-15cm of the lemongrass stick (discarding the straw-like top), then grind the slices finely in a spice or coffee grinder (or just chop them as finely as you can).
  • Place a large frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, add about 1 tblsp of butter. When that has melted, add the spring onions and stir and fry for about 2 minutes, until the white parts are just starting to turn translucent.
  • Add the garlic, grated ginger and ground lemongrass to the pan and stir and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Do not allow to brown. Remove from the heat and combine with the yoghurt.
  • Rub the base of your gratin dish with some butter. Add a layer of potatoes, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper, add a layer of turnip and spread with half of the yoghurt mixture, then season as before with salt and pepper. Repeat with another layer of potatoes, turnip and yoghurt, seasoning as you go, and finish with a layer of potatoes.
  • Pour the milk over the gratin, dot with the remaining 2 tblsp butter and place in the oven. Bake for about an hour or until the vegetables are soft and the top is golden. I also took Deb’s advice and, after about 30 minutes, pressed down the top of the gratin to make sure it remained moist.
  • Enjoy on its own for lunch or perhaps alongside a piece of pork or somesuch for dinner. Who knows, it might even go nicely with some haggis.
The Variations:
  • Being a ginger fiend, I would be tempted to add even more ginger next time. I would also probably try adding about a tsp of black mustard seeds at the start of frying, before adding the onions. For a richer dish, you can, of course, replace some or all of the milk with cream if you like.


  1. Tangled Noodle

    Thought I’d stumbled on some naughty talk with ‘neeps’ and ‘tatties’! Happy to see it’s much more benign yet no less delicious. With ginger and lemongrass, this dish may seem a bit further east of Scotland but I’m sure those good folk would not quibble with the promised flavor!

  2. sarah

    What a clever idea. I have not cooked with fresh lemongrass before, but this inspires me because it is a really modern twist on a historic peasant dish. Turnips and potatoes are such an economical combination and this elevates them to a whole new level.

  3. jenn

    Interesting. I’m not much of a turnip fan, but I’d definitely give these a shot.

  4. OysterCulture

    I love the sound of this dish and especially the combination with ginger and lemongrass. Sounds nice and warm given the current chilly weather. Just the thing to start warming a body from the inside.

  5. Jenni

    Oooh, Scots-Asian cuisine–my favorite! :) Gotta say, I think rutabaga tastes and smells like dirt, but the rest of my family are big fans. Go figure.

    Like Alice and books-without-pictures, I think, “what’s the point of a gratin without cheese?” Taking a cue from your “Damn the torpedoes; full steam ahead” approach, I am now thinking along the lines of Greek-ish flavors–lemon, oregano, olive oil, feta…You are an inspiration, DS.

  6. Sarah, Maison Cupcake

    So is a yellow turnip really a swede? Definitely confused. Looks very tasty though.

  7. Phoo-D

    I saw your gorgeous photo on Tastespotting and wondered what a ‘yellow’ turnip was! I’ve never heard of neeps and tatties or cooked a rutabega either for that matter. This looks like a lot of fun to try!

  8. The Diva on a Diet

    Call me crazy, but turnips are one of my most favorite foods. I could eat them every day … but don’t, since the husband cannot abide them. More’s the pity, they’re scrumptious – and you’re so right, they pair beautifully with potatoes. Love the unexpected additions here, especially that lemongrass. Yum!

  9. Daily Spud

    Tangled Noodle: I’m now hoping that there isn’t some other meaning for neeps and tatties that I don’t know about :D And, yes, the flavourings here are definitely a little further east than Scotland, I hope they won’t mind!

    sarah: Thanks! Do try the fresh lemongrass, it has a lovely, bright flavour.

    jenn: it’s probably a good one to try if you don’t like turnip – might convert you :)

    OysterCulture: …and we all need a bit of warming from the inside around here these days!

    Jenni: I know, Scots-Asian, eh? A much neglected fusion cuisine :D And I absolutely take the point about the gratin-minus-cheese – I had to actively stop myself from cheesing this one up!

    Sarah, Maison Cupcake: Oh, I have always been confused by the turnip / swede thing! I mean, we just call ’em turnips here and I’m pretty sure they’re what would be called swede in your neck of the woods. I only call them yellow turnip here to distinguish from what I know as white turnip, which is quite a different beast, more peppery and radish-like in taste and, well, white.

    Phoo-D: might indeed be an interesting way to get acquanited with rutabagas!

    Diva: turnips really are one of those vegetables that people seem to either love or hate – they’re undoubtedly good with potatoes, though, and I was very pleased the lemongrass addition

  10. sarah

    Sounds delicious! I LOVE both turnips and potatoes!!!

  11. SippitySup

    Those wacky Scots. They have names for veg that are sure to make a grown man giggle. GREG

  12. Lori

    Hmmm…interesting about all the terms. My dad’s turnips in his garden look similar to that, but then I don’t know if I’d recognize a rutabaga if I saw one. I’m not a big fan of turnips on their own, but I think I could definitely like them with potatoes and all these great flavors. This recipe sounds tasty!

  13. Daily Spud

    sarah: well, then, this one’s got your name written all over it :)

    SippitySup: don’t they just!

    Lori: turnips on their own are not to everyone’s taste and they can tend to dominate a bit if they’re overused in soups and stews – but they’re balanced out here, I think, and worth a try

  14. Carol, Simply...Gluten-free

    You make me want to give turnips another try – haven’t had one since cavemen roamed the earth. Happy New Year to you my dear. It was such a pleasure to meet you in 2009, hopefully we will have another chance this year.

  15. Natasha - 5 Star Foodie

    The gratin looks fabulous and I love the addition of the lemongrass, what a great flavor combination!

  16. The Cooking Ninja

    hmmm…never thought of making it this way. :) Looks delicious. I can imagine the lemongrass flavour.

  17. Sophie

    Dear Spud,

    I made this turnip & tatties lemongrass dish yesterday, & my husband & I loved every bite of it,…speaking of a twist! hahahaha,…very refreshing, indeed!

    Thanks again for combining old with new flavours! I will certainly make this again! Cheers!

  18. Reeni

    What a delicious little flavor twist you put on these! I like this a lot better than the traditional ones!

  19. Chef E

    Spudsy what a great piece! I love learning about my Scottish heritage! I scooped up some lemon grass while at the market in St. Louis and love using it. I am going to make this dish when I return home. I read the post before this, and borscht soup was a hit at my cafe after I heard grumbling about how it was hot and not cold, but it was really good! Beets, tatties, and nippers are all good in my book!

  20. Daily Spud

    Carol: A sheer pleasure on my part to meet you too! And if I have made you think that you might, for a second, possibly reconsider turnips, then I think I’ve done a good job!

    Natasha: it’s unexpected but does work I think – a real makeover dish :)

    Cooking Ninja: I hadn’t thought much about making it this way before now either :D

    Sophie: Oh wow, I am so happy to hear that! I know that I will definitely be making this again myself too :)

    Reeni: it’s certainly a dish that might make you reconsider the more traditional version!

    Chef E: They are good vegetables all :) And I do love lemongrass myself – hope you enjoy making this when you get back home. I have no doubt that you will put your Chef E mark on it too :)

  21. Kitchen Butterfly

    What a lovely combination…………with lemongrass and ginger. Wow!!!!

  22. Daily Spud

    Why thank you :) I made it again this evening and I wasn’t disappointed – I think it’s certainly worthy of your Kitchen Butterfly attention!

  23. Jackie at PhamFatale.com

    I love the way you flavored the dish. So creative! I usually use lemongrass and ginger in veggies and meat. I’ll definitely try this potato dish.

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