Thursday, 10 February 2011

Roast parsnips

Don't be alarmed by that white substance between the parsnips in the photo. All will be revealed...

All the years I lived in South Africa, I had no idea what a person would do with a parsnip. Their Afrikaans name (witwortels) translates to 'white roots' (mind you, carrots are simply called 'roots' in Afrikaans, so it's hardly surprising), which I didn't find helpful. I never bought them, because I had no idea how to prepare them, and because I had the weird notion that they would taste like turnips, which I don't enjoy. The only time I ever consumed them was when my sister in law grated them into a soup, which of course gave me no indication as to how they would taste alone.

One of the 'bank staff' members at my very first job in the UK was appalled to discover this gaping hole in my culinary experience, and shared her recipe with me. I wish I could remember her name. Mea culpa... but we didn't work together very long.

I have since discovered there are a great many things you can do with a parsnip, but this remains my favourite, so I share it with you. My husband says 'they're like sweeties', my elder son snarfs them with relish, but my younger son is not a fan. His girlfriend is mad about them, however, but never gets them at home, so we kidnap her for dinner if I'm ever making them.

Oven temperature

Parsnips (as many as you need)
Cumin seeds (optional - these were not part of the original recipe)

Coated and sprinkled
  • Peel the parsnips and cut them into large pieces (I usually cut them in half across the middle and then cut the fatter top part in half again, vertically)
  • Steam them over boiling water for about 5 minutes until they are just starting to soften.
  • While the parsnips are steaming, preheat some oil in your roasting pan in the oven.
  • Make a half-and-half mixture of cornflour and grated Parmesan and coat each piece of parsnip in this. I usually use a Tupperware lunch box, in which I gently shake the parsnips one at time (it only takes a few seconds for each one).
  • Pop the parsnips into the preheated oil in the roasting pan and sprinkle each one with a few cumin seeds.
  • Roast for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden on all sides. They should crisp up nicely.
  • Don't feel you can only serve these with a roast joint. They are utterly delicious with pork chops, steak, grilled chicken.... you name it!

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