Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Most Excellent Parsnip - Facts & a Recipe

By Bruno Girin, via Flickr.com
Parsnips are plentiful, cheap and versatile, and
have an alluring sweetness which emerges when
they're cooked. Much nicer than turnips, I think.

Traditionally they are cooked alongside roast meat,
but not of course by (or for) vegetarians. Cut into
chunky batons they take only about 10 minutes
to boil, or half an hour to roast (preferably drizzled
with a little honey and balsamic and lightly salted).

Here are ten facts about parsnips:

 1 The early Romans thought them an aphrodisiac, and ate them accordingly.
 2 100g (about one fairly large, trimmed and peeled) contain only about 75 calories.
 3 They're rich in vitamins and minerals, more so than their relative the carrots including
       potassium, vitamin C, and traces of calcium and iron.
 4 There is no (or very minimal) saturated fat or cholesterol.
 5 Parsnips sliced very thinly (e.g. with a cheese parer) and fried or oven-baked make
       very nice crisps.
 6 The leaves and shoots can cause a sort of chemical burn or dermatitis on bare hands.
 7 Seeds for planting are short-lived so can't be kept a year, and can be slow to germinate.
 8 The caterpillars of swallowtail butterflies find the plants very tasty. (As they do carrots.)
 9 They're a traditional winter vegetable because they need a low soil temperature to
       develop flavour. Thought to be best harvested after the first frosts.
10 Their botanical name is pastinaca sativa.

And here's my recipe for:

Parsnip and Ginger Soup
This quantity serves four, and about 40 mins are needed including prep & processing.
A blender or processor are used, too. No need for added salt.

2 tbsp good oil
1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
Piece of fresh ginger about the size of a walnut shell, peeled and finely chopped
     (if unavailable, use 2 level teaspoons of ground ginger but add after stage 3.)
400g parsnips (about 5 medium), peeled, ends trimmed, coarsely chopped
1 medium (about 150g) potato, chopped - no need to peel
1200ml vegetarian stock (e.g. 3 tsp Marigold bouillon powder or 2 veg stock cubes)
    This can be made up during stages 1 and 2 of cooking
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 level tsp soft dark brown sugar (optional but lovely)

1 Heat the oil in a large pan, then add the onion and ginger and fry gently for 5 mins.
2 Add the parsnips and potato and fry for a further 5 mins, stirring occasionally.
3 Add the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 mins or until the veg are soft.
4 Stir in the pepper and sugar, and process/blitz to a fairly smooth consistency.
5 For show, serve in bowls with a swirl of organic double cream.


  1. And I live in a lovely rural corner of the UK - so not a 24hr vendor within 30 miles.