Get to the ‘root’ of the matter…
Root Vegetables. Yum. They just remind me of winter when the days are short and the nights are cold, they have a homely, warming feeling and their nourishing too.
There is something incredibly divine about roasted roots. Caramelised roasted parsnips, carrots and onion are a particular fave, with a little honey and olive oil to make them truly satisfying, the sweetness of the honey just makes them extra special.
If you’re making a batch of these to go along with your roast or an evening meal, make double and use the leftovers for lunch the next day. I love a warming winter salad, just boil up some pearl barley, fry some parma ham until its crisp and reheat the the roasted roots. Toss it altogether along with a vinaigrette dressing and there you have it. I find Parma ham and parsnip go extremely well together, perhaps it stems from the fact pigs in Italy bred for top quality Parma ham are often fed on just a diet of parsnips!
I believe if parsnips could speak, this is what they would say to all other root vegetables… ‘Anything you can do, I can do better!’
They are definitely my favourite root vegetable and they’re at their best from mid to late winter which is one of many reasons as to why I love this time of the year. They’re also so much more than a pale carrot, they’re sweeter and just as versatile. Their slightly sweet flavour makes them the perfect accompaniment or a meal in its own right. Back in the day parsnips were actually used to sweeten dishes such as cakes and jams, until sugar became more readily available of course.
Cut them lengthwise and roast in a hot oven, boil and mash on their own or with potato or add them to stews or soups. There are many ways to use this cheap and easy to prepare vegetable. I particularly love to serve roast parsnip as a little nibbler before a main meal, alongside a garlic flavoured yoghurt dip. Sprinkle over any herbs you might have, coriander works well and adds a subtle kick of flavour.
No matter what they say, size matters! Pass on the enormous parsnips, they may be easier to peel but they are woody and tough, not sweet ant tender like they should be, choose the small to medium sized parsnips instead. Try to avoid parsnips with lots of tiny feather threads on, purely for the reason that they’ll burn when roasted.
You rarely do, but if you see parsnips with their green tops attached, snatch them up. These tops are a great tell tale of how recently the vegetables were picked, the green begins to wilt after a few days so look for ones with fresh and bushy tops. Store them unwashed in a perforated, unsealed plastic bag for about 2 weeks, when they start to soften they’re no good. If you’ve chosen an organic, pesticide free parsnips savour the nutrients and don't bother peeling them, just give them a gentle scrub to remove any dirt.
So enjoy these mighty roots whilst their at their best, they deserve to take centre stage as the star component to any dish.