Parsnip the vege that keeps on giving

GRAHAM HAWKES
Last updated 11:33 05/09/2014
Southland Times photo
Parsnip and chickpea croquettes

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There's something very old-fashioned about parsnips.

I have great memories of cold winter evenings and warm comforting broths in the home of team Hawkes of Harvey St. Often referred to as white carrots, they are from the same family. They have grown in Europe since Roman times. The word parsnip is from the Latin 'pastus' meaning food and 'sativa' meaning cultivated.

Parsnips have a delicate, sweet and slightly nutty flavour. Parsnip varieties have subtle taste variations and slightly different shapes. The sweet flavour comes when the starch is converted to sugar in cold weather. It is said the best parsnips come after the first frost, not too dissimilar to swede.

During the Middle Ages parsnips were the main starchy vegetable for ordinary people (potatoes had not yet been introduced). They were easy to grow and were a welcome food to eat during the lean winter months. They were also valued for their sugar content. Sweet parsnip dishes like jam and desserts became a part of traditional English cookery; they were also commonly used for making beer and wine. Parsnip wine has a beautiful golden colour wand a rich sherry-like flavour.

Parsnips are a good source of fibre and potassium, and contribute folate, calcium, iron and magnesium. They also contain small amounts of vitamin C and E. Farcarinol, (a natural pesticide) mostly associated with carrots, is found in higher levels in parsnips.

You don't need to peel young parsnips. You might like to peel or scrape the older and tougher ones. Parsnips are often thought of as a winter vegetable but pretty much available all year round. Smooth and firm parsnips are the best along with being small to medium sized. They should be stored in plastic bags in the fridge, make sure the bag is not completely sealed to prevent condensation. When I was a lad my grandfather dug a pit in his garden, lined with sacks then filled with the winter vegetables - great for parsnips.

Parsnips are useful in many dishes.

In salads, cut into chunks, steamed or roasted and bound with your favourite dressing, nuts and salad greens

Omelettes and frittatas

Soups

Peeled into ribbons, and shallow fried to form a crispy snack or garnish

Parsnip puree

Roasted with peppers, red onion and carrots and drizzled with oil, balsamic and finished with honey

Steamed and mashed with carrots and swede to make marble mash, served with plenty of cracked black pepper and butter

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This week lets make some tasty croquettes, to be served as is or with a green salad

PARSNIP AND CHICKPEA CROQUETTES

NEED TO KNOW

Main ingredient Vegetables
Type of dish Vegetarian
Course Side dish
Cooking time <30 min
Serves/makes 12
Special options None

 450g parsnip, peeled and chopped
 115g chickpeas, canned or cooked
 25g butter
 1 garlic clove, crushed
 1 Tbsp chopped fresh coriander
 1 egg, beaten
 50g fresh bread crumbs
 vegetable oil for frying
 salt and freshly ground pepper

Place parsnips in a pot with enough water to cover. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until completely tender.

Drain the chickpeas and roughly mash.

Melt the butter in a small pot and cook the garlic for 30 seconds.

Drain the parsnips and mash with the garlic butter.

Stir in the chickpeas and chopped coriander, then season well.

Take about 1 Tbsp of the mixture at a time and for into small croquettes. Dip each croquette into the beaten egg and then roll in the breadcrumbs.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry the croquettes for 3 to 4 minutes until golden, turning frequently so the brown evenly.

Drain on kitchen paper and then serve at once, garnished with fresh sprigs of coriander.

- The Southland Times

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