Walking through the farmers’ market on a winter’s day, you’re likely to notice the harvest of late-season crisp red apples and sweet pears and the vibrant skins of all kinds of citrus. Or maybe the speckled squashes and far-out mushrooms catch your eye. But look again. The vegetable resembling a colourless carrot sitting quietly on the market trestle table transforms winter dishes with its sweet comforting creaminess – we present to you, the parsnip.
Parsnips are in the same family as carrots, parsley root, celeriac and fennel and are a rich source of vitamin C, K and copper. This beige-coloured root vegetable thrives when the weather turns cold. The first frost turns the parsnip’s starch to sugar, giving it its sweet and nutty flavour. While parsnips look like they may be tough, like carrots, they become buttery and soft when cooked.
Small to medium sized parsnips that are pale beige in colour and firm to the touch are the ideal kind to cook. Jumbo-sized parsnips are also good for cooking, but you need to cut around the core, which becomes a little bitter and tough as the vegetable grows.
Parsnips can be swapped in for carrots in almost any recipe. A little butter, oil or cream greatly enriches the parsnip’s natural flavour and they are luscious when steamed, roasted, mashed, baked whole or cooked for a puree or creamy mousse. Of course at this time of year, parsnip soups and stews are soul warming but a salad with delicately shaved raw parsnip and citrus is satisfying too.
These are some of the ways that we like to cook parsnip at home however, you can expect to experience parsnip in even more grand and sophisticated new ways in February at Maude – parsnip ice cream, couscous, oil and brioche bread are some of the ideas we have cooking up in the test kitchen right now.
Reservations for our February menu open on Tuesday 13th January 2015.