Back to my roots

Even though I am now resident in Portugal, I often hark back to my roots and a trip down nostalgia lane. Recently while researching a new batch of recipes, I unearthed some old classics that brought back fond memories of my mother. A cook not  known for her lack of restraint when it came to recipes with double cream, butter and cheese.The recipes in question co-incidentally involved parsnips, somewhat of an expat craving here in the Algarve, but nevertheless not impossible to source.My first recipe is "Parsnips Molly Parkin,"I used to cook this dish in my student days from a recipe in the Readers Digest Cookery Year. This book, a culinary bible of its time, was given to me by my mother as a parting gift when I went to college. Her thinking was to encourage me to look after my appetite while away from home.I hope I am not the only person who fondly remembers Parsnips Molly Parkin. The recipe sounds somewhat unlikely, as it involves layering browned parsnips and tomatoes with brown sugar and cream, and baking it slowly till the sliced roots have softened and the cream is a rich, sweet sauce A dish invented for the writer and broadcaster, Parkin hated parsnips but combining their sweetness with acidic tomatoes, grated gruyere, cream, and finished with a breadcrumb topping, made it acceptable. If we are talking healthy new year eating resolutions this recipe has to be re-defined, so out with the cream, and replace it with creme fraiche, reduce the quantity of butter, substitute Emmenthal for the Gruyere, and the sugar can be ditched as the parsnips should have their own certain sweetness. Forget the breadcrumb topping. So we now have a variation on an old British classic that has almost been forgotten and we have a dish less in fat,with more natural flavour and less calorific.

How to bake a "Thoroughly modern Molly"
2 large parsnips
2 large beef tomatoes
1oz butter
2 tablespoons of mild olive oil
80 ml creme fraiche
salt and pepper
Emmenthal cheese
  • Peel, top and tail the parsnips, discard peelings.
  • With a peeler take fine strips of the parsnips until you reach the woody core.
  • Melt the butter and oil in a saucepan and fry the fine strips on parsnip until it almost turns to mush.
  • Slice the tomatoes into thin slices.
  • Parsnip layer: Place a third of the parsnips in an ovenproof dish.
  • Season: Sprinkle with a little salt, and a good amount of pepper.
  • If the parsnips are sweet (generally in the depths of winter after the first frosts) omit the sugar
  • Creme fraiche: pour over a third of the creme fraiche
  • Tomatoes: layer a third of the tomatoes on top.
  • Make a second and third layer of parsnip, seasoning, creme fraiche and tomatoes ending with tomatoes on top.
  • grate some emmenthal on top.
Bake for 30 to 40 mins at a medium heat (if using a high bake for less and let rest for 10 mins it stays super hot for a while).
My second recipe is my mother´s own recipe for curried parsnip soup.Here is a a page from my foodie scrapbook with the recipe in her own handwriting.What a fantastic heirloom, and a reminder of childhood times back home in blighty.


  1. I hadn't heard of this,I suppose it's a bit like a Dauphinoise(which I love)but with tomatoes.It'd be nice made with celeriac I bet.

  2. Love the sound of this recipe and as a vegetarian it sounds like a good one for me to try.

  3. I´ve made a vegetarian happy. So glad you like it


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