Parsnips have been enjoyed in many dishes at least since ancient Roman times. This creamy white root vegetable is often confused with the carrot – in fact, it can be difficult to discern whether an ancient text refers to a parsnip or a carrot as carrots were white and purple in those days! Modern parsnips have a sweeter flavor than their orange carrot cousins, and many prefer the taste in soups and stews.
For centuries, parsnips and other root vegetables such as turnips and rutabagas were used in a manner that we typically reserve for potatoes (which were unknown to Europeans). John Josselyn, Gentleman, an early American colonist, mentions “Parsnips of a prodigous size” in his garden! Parsnips can be mashed, creamed, fried, boiled, roasted, and more, so it is no surprise to find such recipes in many old texts.
A quick note about preparation, though: peeled and pared parsnips will darken if exposed to air, so be sure to hold them in water with a touch of lemon if you cannot cook them immediately! And very large parsnips may have a bitter core – so you will want to cut that out prior to cooking and serving.
This rich and spicy cake, redolent of cinnamon and spice and raisins, is a delight at tea time!
Spicy Parsnip Cake
– 2 cup flour
– 1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
– 1 cup granulated sugar
– 2 tsp baking powder
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp ground ginger
– 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
– 4 eggs, lightly beaten
– 1 1/4 cup vegetable oil
– 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
– 4 cups finely grated parsnips
– 1 cup raisins
– Preheat oven to 375F. Butter and flour a loaf pan.
– Combine flour, sugars, baking power, baking soda and spices in a bowl.
– Stir in eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Mix until just blended.
– Fold in grated parsnips and raisins.
– Pour into loaf pan. Bake at 375F 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
Roasted vegetablesis a favorite dish for fall and winter dinners. I love to serve them with a crusty warm loaf and a drizzle of olive oil. They are also incredible delicious when paired with roasted meats.
Roasted Parsnips and other Winter Vegetables
– 3-4lb parsnips, peeled
– 2-3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and soaking in lemon water
– 1lb carrots, peeled
– 1 large yam, peeled
– 2 onions, peeled and quartered
– 2-4 cloves garlic (to taste), peeled
– Salt, rosemary and crushed black pepper to taste
– Approx ½ cup olive oil
– Heat oven to 375F. Cut all parsnips, carrots, potatoes and yam lengthwise into 1 inch thick strips. If the strips are very long, cut into 2-4 inch lengths.
– Toss all vegetables with olive oil and place in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle well with rosemary, salt and pepper.
– Roast for approximately 45 minutes. I prefer to stir them up after 20 minutes or so, to ensure more even browning. They are done when tender.
This rich and delicious soup is basically a parsnip Vichyssoise! It is absolutely delightful served piping hot on a chill evening.
Creamy Parsnip, Potato and Leek Soup
– 2-3 medium leeks, cleaned and sliced into bite-size lengths
– 1 onion, chopped
– 1 Tablespoon butter
– 4 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced into ½ inch lengths, held in 4 cups water
– 2-3 russet potatoes, peeled and diced, held in same water as parsnips
– 2 teaspoons salt
– 2½ cups milk
– 2 cups light cream
– 1 cup heavy cream
– White pepper to taste
– Sauté the leeks and onion in butter until they are tender. Add the parsnips and potatoes and water and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are soft and easy break when pierced with a fork.
– Add salt, milk and light cream and bring the soup to a light boil, stirring constantly.
– Allow the soup to cool slightly, and then carefully use an inversion blender to “cream” the vegetables (alternately, you can carefully pour small amounts – no more than half the pitcher size at a time – into a blender and process).
– Stir in the cream and white pepper.
I couldn’t resist one old-fashioned recipe – from a book written in some time in 16th century England by SirKenelm Digby, Knight. This gentleman shared this advice: Parsneps (raw) cut into little pieces, is the best food for tame Rabets, and makes them sweet.
To Dress Parsneps (from The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened)
- 3-4 large parsnips
- 1 quart milk
Scrape well three or four good large roots, cleansing well their outside, and cutting off as much of the little end as is Fibrous, and of the great end as is hard. Put them into a possnet or pot, with about a quart of Milk upon them, or as much as will cover them in boiling, which do moderately, till you find they are very tender. This may be in an hour and half, sooner or later, as the roots are of a good kind. Then take them out, and scrape all the outside into a pulpe, like the pulpe of roasted apples, which put in a dish upon a chafing dish of Coals, with a little of the Milk, you boiled them in, put to them; not so much as to drown them, but only to imbibe them: and then with stewing, the pulpe will imbibe all that Milk. When you see it is drunk in, put to the pulpe a little more of the same Milk, and stew that, till it be drunk in. Continue doing thus till it hath drunk in a good quantity of the Milk, and is well swelled with it, and will take in no more, which may be in a good half hour. Eat them so, without Sugar or Butter; for they will have a natural sweetness, that is beyond sugar, and will be Unctuous, so as not to need Butter.