Alice Zaslavsky, food educator, author of Alice’s Food A-Z and TV star, joins Tamara Oudyn to praise the parsnip and present a preponderance of preparations for this humble root veg, joined by a chorus of callers with their own recipes.
Alice provided these proper parsnip pointers:
Seasonality: Much like its cousins, carrot and parsley, parsnip finds itself at its best in cooler weather, late-Autumn into the depths of Winter. You’ll likely be able to find it all year round, but this is when parsley is at its sweetest and tenderest.
What to look for: Colloquially referred to as “The White Carrot”, it would be wise to seek parsnip’s freshness cues from carrots, too. Look for parsnips that are firm to the touch, with plenty of girth (because they shrink preposterously upon roasting). The longer they’re out of the ground, the more parsnips soften up and then dry out, so try to avoid buying them when they’re starting to look a little droopy.
Varieties to look out for: Some parsnip varieties refuse to broaden as they grow, so if you happen to find some “baby parsnips”, don’t be deterred- just give them a good wash and roast or steam them whole, without peeling. They’ll be less fibrous than the bigger varieties that take longer to grow, and can be a little on the woody side. Bigger parsnips have a sweeter flavour though, because they’ve had a chance to let some of their natural starches break down into sugars.
How to store: Store parsnips in the fridge in a paper bag, where they’ll happily hang out for around a week or so.
How to cook: Parsnips are happily versatile, easily grated raw into salads, roasted with olive oil, boiled in salted water, simply steamed until soft, blitzed into delicious soups or purees, fried into parsnip chips (try this by peeling thin strips of parsnip and then deep-frying at 180-200C until golden brown. Speaking of golden brown, parsnip also lends itself gorgeously to cakes, since it offers a sweet nuttiness that was taken to much advantage in antiquity and Medieval times before cane sugar found itself to Europe. Check out Mark Best’s brilliant parsnip cake recipe below.
Complementary pairings: Brown Sugar, Butter, Carrots, Cream, Curry Powder, Honey, Garlic, Ginger, Maple Syrup, Nutmeg, Pepper, Thyme.