Rooting for the parsnip

Parsnip Tarte Tatin

I’m rooting for the parsnip... The origins of my parsnip infatuation dates back years ago when my mother made me Parsnips Molly Parkin.

Autumn arrived quickly last year – the summer temperatures plummeted almost overnight, and, before I knew it, I was sneezing through my autumnal allergies.It´s strange, I go nine months of the year without thinking about a parsnip, and then when autumn arrives, I go mad for them..Hearty and comforting, perfect for soups, with subtle sweetness and an earthy, root vegetable flavour.
They tell you it's perfect roasted. Its not, believe me. Its a complete b****d. The appeal is it´s fragrant and slightly peppery taste,  mild and almost creamy, but when you come to the cooking it starts behaving badly. Add honey to glaze it and it burns, mash it and it needs more flavour,  but add spice to the equation and deep fry it now you are talking.
On most of my trips to the shops or market at this time of year, I'll grab a few loose parsnips and toss them in my saco de pano ( towelling or cloth bag to ensure freshly gathered veg herbs and greens hold their freshness and moisture, a must have for foraging and farmers marketing) and then when I get home I cache them in the fridge,like  a squirrel, knowing they'll survive if I instead opt for a simple bowl of pasta in the week ahead. After all, the parsnip, unlike a flighty knob of fennel or bunch of spring onions, is patient.
Will the parsnip be your bridge to the Instagram hall of fame, followers, and fortune? No. 
Will it bring you health, immunity, and a new lease of life following the most chaotic 14 years in modern history? I've not found this to be the case, but do let me know if I'm wrong. If you're looking for that style of bravado, though, you're probably in the wrong place — this is the parsnip we're talking about, a steadfast dinnertime companion during the bleakest months of the year, the humble hero of the vegetable drawer politely waiting its place in the queue . Give parsnips a chance, won't you? I daresay if you give them a little respect you'll be surprised how versatile they can be.
Here are 7 of my favourite ways to cook parsnips.
Apple, parsnip and potato soup
Here I put them to good use in a classic curried parsnip and apple soup.I didn´t want the soup to be overwhelmingly sweet so I added potato for good measure, and pinch or two of ground coriander and garam masala.Such perfect flavour pairings don´t need much help. No fancy schmancy herbs and spices, just good simple robust flavours.This is really easy to make, and the end result is perfectly balanced smooth soup.The starchy potato helps to make the soup creamy without the need to add extra dairy. i´m certainly not opposed to having a tub of double cream to hand but sometimes a lighter meal is just the ticket. There is always greek yoghurt.I employed the soft goat cheese and walnut crouton to contrast with the sweetness and to add a bit of crunch, as well as a generous dusting of ground black pepper.

20g of butter
1 tbsp of oil
2 onions, or 1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 potato, around 230g in weight
1 parsnip, around 230g in weight
1 apple, around 230g in weight (I used Jonagold, but I'm sure most types would work)
400ml of vegetable stock
Flor de sal black pepper

Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan, and cook the onion and garlic over a medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until soft and translucent
While the onions are cooking, prepare your other vegetables - chop the potato into chunks (I left the skins on mine), and peel and chop the parsnip and apple
When the onions are cooked, add the other vegetables to the pan, and mix well. Add the vegetable stock (it should be almost covering the vegetables - adjust the quantity as needed, depending on the size of your pan), and cover with a lid, leaving it slightly askew to maintain a slow simmer.Your goal is to develop the flavour of the liquid without reducing it, as with stock.
Simmer over a medium heat for around 25 minutes, stirring every now and then, until all the vegetables are very soft.
When the vegetables are ready, use a stick blender to blend the soup until smooth. Season with a generous amount of black pepper - you probably won't need salt unless you used low-sodium stock
Adjust the thickness of the soup as desired - if you'd like it to be thinner, just add a little more stock, and if you'd like it to be thicker, cook over a medium heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly
Serve topped with soft goat's cheese and walnuts, if desired

Parsnip Dauphinoise
  • 500 ml double cream
  • 300 ml milk
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • whole nutmeg, for grating
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 parsnips, about 1.5kg, peeled
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, fan 180°C, gas 6.

    Pour the cream and milk into a pan. Add the honey, a generous grating of nutmeg, the thyme, bay and ½ teaspoon of salt. Bring to simmering point, then leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Strain into a bowl, discard the flavourings and return the liquid to the cleaned pan.Slice the parsnips lengthways, into thin strips, using a mandolin or a very sharp knife. Alternatively, slice into thin discs using a food processor. Add the parsnips to the pan, stir to coat in the creamy mixture, cover with a lid and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Pour into an ovenproof dish and cover with foil. Place on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 25-30 minutes until browned and the parsnips are tender. You can bake the gratin the day before; reheat, covered in foil, at 200°C, fan 180°C, gas 6 for 20-25 minutes.

Parsnip Tatin pictured top )
This parsnip tarte tatin makes a great accompaniment to roast beef or serve as a light lunch for two with a winter salad.

450 g parsnips, peeled and cut into large slices
1 tbsp. sunflower oil
25 g butter
1 tbsp. dark maple syrup
freshly grated nutmeg
150 g ready-rolled puff pastry

Heat the oven to 200ºC (180ºC fan oven) gas mark 6. Put the parsnips in a pan of lightly salted water, bring to the boil, then simmer for 5-7 minutes until tender. Drain and leave to steam dry. Score the tops lightly with a sharp knife.

Heat the oil and butter in a 20cm ovenproof frying pan. Add the syrup and fry the parsnips over a medium to high heat for 2-3 minutes until slightly caramelised and golden. Season with the nutmeg.

Unroll the pastry and cut out a circle a few centimetres larger than the pan. Prick all over the top with a fork. Lay the forked side of the pastry over the parsnips, tucking the edges down the side of the pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden and crisp. Leave to stand for 2-3 minutes, then slide a flat-bladed knife around the edge to loosen the pastry, put a serving plate on top and turn out. Serve the parsnip tarte tatin hot.
Parsnips Molly Parkin
Browned parsnips layered with tomatoes, cheese and cream and baked in a rich, sweet sauce. This is a cheap, easy-to-make and delicious old-fashioned vegetarian main.
oil for frying, e.g. sunflower
25g butter, plus extra for greasing
1 tbsp light brown sugar
350-400g parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
250g tomatoes, sliced thinly
75g Gruyère, emmental or Cheddar, grated
125ml double cream
small handful dried breadcrumbs
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil and a knob of butter in a frying pan.
Sprinkle in the sugar and lay the parsnips over the top.
If you can't fit them all in at the same time, divide the parsnips and sugar in half and fry in two batches.
Fry for 3-4 minutes on each side, until starting to caramelise.
Grease a casserole or baking dish with butter.
Layer the parsnips, tomatoes and cheese, seasoning each layer.
Finish with a layer of cheese. Pour over the cream.
Top with the breadcrumbs, dot with the rest of the butter.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden and the parsnips are tender.

Parsnip Boulangére

I used to make this with the parsnips 
cut into slices and all laid out flat, 
which works just fine. 
But standing the parsnip slices upright gives a brilliant crunchy element on top, while the bottom half steams and softens, going wonderfully creamy.
When slicing the parsnips, a mandolin is great but by hand is fine; 
what’s important is to slice them as evenly as possible. 

150 grams unsalted butter
3 onions (finely sliced)
4 cloves garlic (finely sliced)
3 thyme sprigs (leaves picked)
1 kg Large parsnips (peeled and finely sliced)
300 millilitres vegetable stock
Maldon sea salt flakes
black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4.

Melt half the butter in a large pan that will hold all of the ingredients over medium heat and add the onions, garlic and thyme leaves. 
Cook gently for 5 minutes. 

Remove from the heat and stir in the potato slices to coat well with the buttery onions. Season well with salt and pepper.
In a 30 × 20cm (12 × 8 inch) baking dish, roughly stack the potatoes upright along the length of the dish. Their edges should point upwards like a roughly shuffled pack of cards and they should sit snugly. Pour over the vegetable stock and dot the remaining butter evenly over the top of the potatoes.
Roast the potatoes in the oven for 50–60 minutes. As they cook they will become creamy and tender underneath and the top edges will crisp. If browning too much on top, cover loosely with foil until tender.
Once done, remove from the oven and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

Parsnip and Paxo pakoras 
A little spin on a traditional favourite. Don’t be afraid to experiment! Just to make life a bit more complicated I thought I would bring sage and onion to the equation which would give it the hint of traditional stuffing. I had another trick up my sleeve, a sage and onion flavouring would be created by adding a teaspoon of  Paxo to the pakora mix, along with the usual curry spices. The herby, nutty, rich scent will fill your kitchen and make everyone drop what they’re doing to investigate.

100g grated parsnip
1 small grated carrot
1 medium onion
1 small stick celery finely chopped
2 chillies, finely minced
1 level tsp chilli powder
2 tbsp fresh coriander,chopped
1 tsp cumin, crushed coarsely
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp sage and onion paxo mix
1/2 tsp lemon juice
3 tbsp garam /chickpea flour
2 tbsp rice flour
salt to taste
Sunflower to deep fry
Two tbsp water

Grate the parsnip,carrot  coarsely. Peel and very finely slice the onion as thinly as you can.Mix the three together.Finely slice a red and a green chilli.Toss the chilli and vegetables together with the chilli powder,coriander, cumin,thyme,sage,turmeric, paxo and lemon juice.

Sift the flours with the salt.
Heat the oil in saucepan deep enough to hold oil for deep frying or a deep fat fryer.
Mix the 2 flours slowly into the  beetroot and onions and rub it with your fingers,until the mix is firm and sticky.Add the water and mix for a further 1~2 minutes.Check for salt, it is likely you will need to add some at this point.
Keep a strainer ready over a bowl for draining the bhajias when ready.
With your already messy fingers put small dollops of the batter into the oil to fry.
Do not put too many in the oil together when frying or else you will have soggy bhajias. 
Each bhajia should be no bigger than a small fritter,approximately 2.5cm.
Do not keep the oil too hot.Let the vegetables fry for 3 or 4 minutes until they are crisp. 
The fritter should fry slowly so that it gets crisp and golden.If the oil is too hot the bhajias will fry too fast and remain raw and gooey inside.If you then try to refry,they will burn,remain soggy and taste bitter.
On the other hand, if you want to serve them later,you can half fry and remove them.Fry when you are ready in hot oil this time.If the oil is not hot when refrying,the bhajias will absorb too much oil.

Parsnip, parmesan and chive bread
This bread is great served with the parsnip and apple soup (above). But it's also good with any other soup, or for a snack with crisp apples and celery and a soft, ripe, creamy cheese such as Brie, Camembert or Dolcelatte.

Makes 1 loaf, to serve 4-6

6 oz (175 g) parsnips (peeled weight)
2 oz (50 g) Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano), cut into ¼ inch (5 mm) cubes 
1 handful chopped fresh chives 
8 oz (225 g) self-raising flour
1½ level teaspoons salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon milk

For the topping:
1 oz (25 g) Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano) shavings (see recipe introduction)
a few whole small sage leaves
a little extra flour for dusting
1 teaspoon olive oil

First of all sift the flour and salt into a large, roomy bowl.
Then put a grater in the bowl and coarsely grate the parsnips into the flour, then toss them around. After that, add the cubes of Parmesan and chopped chives and toss that in. Now lightly beat the eggs and milk together, then add this to the bowl a little at a time, mixing evenly with a palette knife.
What you should end up with is a rough, rather loose, sticky dough, so don't worry what it looks like at this stage.Transfer this to the baking sheet and pat it gently into a 6 inch (15 cm) rough round, then make a cross with the blunt side of a knife. Now scatter the Parmesan shavings over the surface, followed by a sprinkling of flour. Finally, spoon the olive oil into a dish, dip each sage leaf in the oil and scatter them over the bread.
Now it should go into the oven on a high shelf to bake for 45-50 minutes, by which time it will be golden and crusty.It then needs to go on a wire rack, then either serve it still warm or re-heat it later.


Popular Posts