Saturday, 19 February 2011

Fine Words Butter No Parsnips

It was Christmas at our house last weekend.  Long story short, a friend of ours was very ill in December and consequently was in bed on Christmas day.  His friends thought this was an awful shame (for his wife, too, who missed out on the festivities to nurse her husband) so we endeavoured to recreate Christmas for them once he was better.  Hence, last Saturday I was up at 8am to make the Pavlova, boil the ham, stuff turkey (crowns - it's neigh on impossible to find whole turkeys at this time of year), peel veg, and decorate the house, in order to reproduce the Christmas spirit two months later.

Mostly I cooked tried-and-tested dishes.  The glaze for the ham, duck fat roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts sauteed  with bacon and chestnuts, and apple and blackberry crumble were favourites with various friends and family over the festive season.  The parsnips, however, were a sticking point.  I am not a fan of the humble parsnip and I fully support the French in using them for animal feed.  It's the sweetness that puts me off - we're back to my sweet/savoury combination issues - so I usually cook them with as little imagination as possible.  The only way I have enjoyed the root is in my mum and dad's spiced parsnip soup.  This made me think that a spicy hit was required to make my parsnips palatable!  It's a starchy vegetable, so I was sure it would work as a gratin, and the soft, creamy texture would be a bonus with the sometimes-dry turkey breast. 
The parsnip gratin was the surprise hit of the meal!  Even the most stubborn parsnip avoiders went back for seconds.  Husband, who is usually pretty lukewarm about the parsnip announced "we're having this again!"  I didn't even get a chance to photograph it, the dish was completely clean by the time it came back to the kitchen.  I did write down my recipe, so I can share it with you.  I made 3 times as much as this, but I was feeding 13 people...

A daunting sight for the parsnip-ambivalent

Parsnip Gratin (serves 4 as a side dish)

350g parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced
125ml double cream
1 tbsp (heaped) horseradish sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
whole nutmeg, for grating

  1. Parboil the parsnips for 5 minutes, then drain and allow to steam dry in the colander.
  2. Tip parsnips into a buttered, oven-proof dish.
  3. Combine cream, horseradish sauce, mustard and salt and pepper.  Pour over parsnips.  (You might need to push the parsnips down to make sure the cream mixture covers it all.)
  4. Grate nutmeg over the top.
  5. Bake for 40 mins at 180 degrees Celsius.
I made it again, so here's a wee photo of that one!

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