Ingredient of the Week: Parsnip
Parsnip is quite possibly my favourite vegetable. Roasted it is definitely a real highlight to my Christmas dinner and one isn’t the same without them. Most people only ever consider eating parsnips at Christmas but trust me there is so much more you can do with a parsnip than serve it at Christmas time. Unsurprisingly it is closely related to carrot as they both look and feel similar. Parsnips tend to be wider at the base and narrower at the top than carrots and are white in colour instead of orange. They have a slightly sweeter taste than carrot but can very much be treated in the same way. They often get overlooked or forgotten about in favour of carrot but personally I prefer them.
They are mostly found in European cuisine, especially British. They are great combined with other root vegetables such as swede, turnip, celeriac, potato and carrot in a stew or broth. Mashed, they also make a great low carbohydrate substitute for potato or can be used to bulk out normal mash potato and add extra nutrition to a meal, like in this cottage pie recipe.
Why are they good for me?
Parsnips are a good source of potassium, which works alongside sodium or table salt to keep the body hydrated. It controls how much fluid the body needs to store or get rid of at any one time, a process called homeostasis. Potassium also helps with the proper functioning of muscles and nerves. Parsnips also contain plenty of fibre, which I have already highlighted in several of my ingredient of the week features including aubergine, pear and baby corn, is important for maintaining healthy digestion. It also helps you to stay fuller for longer and controls blood insulin levels. This ensures you have a more sustained energy level throughout the day.
How do I prepare them?
I treat parsnips exactly like carrots. Top and tail them, then peal and slice to size. If they are particularly large then it is best to remove the middle as it gets a bit fibrous or woody, but otherwise they are really simple to prepare.
How do I cook them?
Again, treat parsnips very much like carrot. They can be boiled, baked, roasted, steamed, or fried. They can even be grated raw in to salad but I find they aren’t as pleasant to eat raw as carrots are.
Like carrot they can also be added to cakes or bakes to give them a healthy twist. In fact in the past when sugar wasn’t readily available in Europe parsnip was used to sweeten cakes instead. I don’t do much baking myself but the idea of a parsnip and honey or maple syrup cake does really appeal to me. They do partner really well with sweet things like apple or pear, and can be blended with either to make a delicious soup.
I really enjoy eating them roasted like in this chicken, cauliflower and root veg quinoa recipe. They are also delicious added in to a barley risotto. My all time favourite way though is my Mum’s simply roasted parsnips at Christmas time, but unfortunately they definitely aren’t the healthiest way to enjoy them as I dread to think how much oil she roasts them in. Although even roasted with just a splash of olive oil they taste great. As a result of their sweetness I think they are one of the nicest vegetables to just eat on their own.
Reading this blog, I’m guessing is going to make some people think I’m weird. I mean who loves parsnip enough to rate it as their favourite part of a Christmas dinner? But please give the humble parsnip a try and just appreciate how good it is.
Thanks for reading and speak soon.