Parsnips

Parsnips can stay in the ground even during the worst weather, and they are at their best after a frost, so they are a great winter vegetable to grow yourself.

They are most commonly eaten in England and Australia, and less so in Europe. Pigs bred in Italy to make Parma ham are sometimes fed on parsnips to make the meat extra tasty.

Like most root vegetables, parsnips are a good source of potassium, an essential mineral in the diet. Eating foods rich in potassium controls the levels of fluid in the body, is good for the heart and kidneys, and may help to keep blood pressure normal. You should be able to get enough in your daily diet as long as you eat a lot of different foods. As well as being found in root vegetables such as parsnips and beetroot, it’s also present in beans, fruit – especially bananas – nuts, seeds, chicken, turkey, shellfish and bread…..

But apart from all that, parsnips are sweet and delicious.

Recipes

Curry-spiced parsnips and potatoes

Gorgeous with simply cooked fish, but stands as a dish on its own with a salad and a spoonful of thick yoghurt. Serves two to three.

About 500g potatoes
About 500g parsnips
3 tbsp sunflower or coconut oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and very finely chopped

For the curry spice mix
1 tbsp coriander seeds
Half a dozen black peppercorns
½ tsp dried chilli flakes 
1 tsp ground fenugreek
1 tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp fine sea salt

Equally , this would be fabulous using a ready blended curry powder mix, in which case just jump to the veg cooking section of the recipe.

First make the spice mix. Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Put the coriander seeds and black peppercorns in a dry frying pan and toast over a gentle heat for a few minutes, until fragrant. Tip into a pestle and mortar and leave to cool. Add the chilli flakes, then crush the lot to a coarse powder and mix with the fenugreek, turmeric and salt.

Peel the spuds and cut into 3-4cm chunks. Put them in a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to a rolling boil. Boil for one minute only, then take off the heat and drain well.

Peel the parsnips, cut into similar sized chunks to the potatoes (remove the core if it seems tough or woody) and add to the potatoes.

Pour the oil into a large, shallow roasting dish and heat in the oven for five minutes. Tip the potatoes and parsnips into the hot oil, add the spice mix and toss so the veg get a good coating of spice. Roast for 40 minutes, giving them a stir halfway through, or until golden and crisp. Stir in the garlic and return to the oven for two to three minutes. Serve straight away, with thick, plain yoghurt and perhaps mango chutney.


Parmesan-baked Parsnips – this is a Delia Smith recipe.

This is one of the nicest ways to serve parsnips, baked crisp and golden brown in the oven with a Parmesan coating. They can be prepared well in advance, up to 24 hours, or they can even be prepared and frozen and will then cook perfectly if allowed to defrost first. This recipe also works very well with sweet potatoes.

  Serves 8

Ingredients
 2 oz (50 g) freshly grated Parmesan
 2½ lb (1.25 kg) parsnips
 6 oz (175 g) plain flour
 oil for basting
 a knob of butter
 Sea salt and black pepper
 Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C).

You will also need a large, solid roasting tin.

Method

Begin by combining the flour, Parmesan, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Peel the parsnips using a potato peeler. Then halve and quarter them lengthways and cut each length in half across, so that you end up with smallish chunks. Cut out any tough woody centres.

Now pop the parsnips in a saucepan, pour in enough boiling water just to cover them and add salt. Put on a lid, bring them to the boil and boil for 3 minutes.

Meanwhile have a large kitchen tray ready. Then, as soon as they are ready, drain them in a colander and, whilst they are still steaming, drop a few at a time (with the aid of some kitchen tongs) into the flour and parmesan mixture, shaking the bowl and moving them around so that they get a good even coating.

As they are coated transfer them to the tray. Make sure you do them all fairly swiftly as the flour mixture will only coat them whilst they are still steamy! When they’re all coated they are ready to cook or store in the fridge or freeze.

Any leftover flour and Parmesan can be kept (sifted) in the fridge or freezer for another time. What is important is to have plenty in order to coat the parsnips quickly.

To bake them, place a large solid roasting tin in the oven to pre-heat and in it put enough oil just to cover the base and a knob of butter for flavour. Then, when the oven is ready, remove the tin and place it over direct heat (turned fairly low) and, again using tongs, place the parsnips quickly side by side in the tin. T

Tilt it and baste all the parsnips with hot fat, place the tin in the oven and bake them for 20 minutes, then turn them over, drain off any surplus fat (a bulb baster is good for this) and continue to bake for a further 15-20 minutes or until they are crisp and golden.


Dan Stevens’s River Cottage parsnip and thyme quick bread from the Guardian website

This loaf doesn’t use yeast and Hugh says it’s great if you want to whip up a quick loaf to go with soup – it does look easy, but I haven’t tried it myself.

1 tbsp rapeseed or sunflower oil, plus extra for oiling the baking sheet

1 large onion, peeled, halved and sliced thin

180g self-raising flour

½ tsp salt

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

50g hard mature goat’s cheese, strong cheddar or parmesan, finely grated

180g grated parsnip

Freshly ground black pepper

1 egg, lightly beaten

2-3 tbsp whole milk

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium-low heat, add the onion and sweat until soft and lightly coloured, stirring from time to time – about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, thyme, cheese, parsnip and some pepper. Add the onion, then the egg and two tablespoons of milk. Mix to form a soft dough, adding the extra milk only if needed. Be careful no to overwork the dough, though – just bring it together with a little light kneading. Shape into a round and place on an oiled baking sheet.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the loaf is golden and makes a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom. Leave to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack, then slice and serve, still warm, spread thickly with butter.


Curried Parsnip Soup

15g butter or margarine

1 small onion, chopped

1 large parsnip, sliced thinly

1 teaspoons mild curry powder

1/2 litre hot vegetable stock

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Place butter or margarine in a large bowl and microwave in HIGH for 1 minute. Add the onion and parsnips then cover and cook on high for 3 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and cook on high for 2 minutes. Pour in the stock, season with salt and pepper then cover and cook on high for 15mins or until the parsnips are soft. Pour the soup into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.