As November marched onwards with no obvious indication that Jack Frost would be putting in an appearance any time soon, I began to grow impatient and was even starting to wonder if my homegrown parsnips would be ready by Christmas. All season I had watched the gloriously healthy looking parsnip leaves grow tall and strong, hinting at the root, buried beneath and hopefully developing into decent sized parsnips, protected from pests and predators by an ultra-fine mesh. September slipped into October and I eagerly awaited the first decent frost of the year but it didn’t arrive and as October waved goodbye and November took hold, the urge to go dig up the first of the parsnips grew stronger but I knew that to do that would be a waste of a root and I had no choice but to wait and wait and wait some more.
The finally, this weekend, it happened!!! Two frosts, one after the other. Not the really harsh frosts guaranteed to transform what is essentially a bland vegetable beforehand, into a gloriously sweet one afterwards but two frosts that, regardless of their relatively gentle nature, would have worked their magic on the starch in the parsnips, turning them into sugar, thereby creating that unmistakably sweet parsnip flavour which we, as a family, love.
So with my camera in hand, I headed out into the garden, unhooked the pegs holding down the netting and pulled (well dug if truth be told) the front two parsnips out and what a decent size pair they were both having around a 6 inch length of usable root on them.
Back in the kitchen I began to prepare the parsnips ready for cooking.
In my opinion, there really is only one way to cook parsnips and that is to roast them in honey and so, true to form, that’s what I did:
- I scrubbed, topped, tailed and then peeled the parsnips;
- Next I chopped them into nice fat fingers;
- Popped a generous blob of butter and glug of oil into a large frying pan (the oil helps to stop the butter burning);
- Once the butter and oil had become nice and hot, I added the parsnip fingers and some carrot fingers too, stirring them well to ensure they were all coated with the butter and oil mix;
- The carrots and parsnips were then left to cook for about 20 minutes, with regular turning to ensure that all sides developed a golden brown colour;
- Then I added a generous amount of clear, runny honey and mixed it in thoroughly, once again making sure that all the carrots and parsnips were coated; and
- The whole lot was then tipped into a dish and put into the bottom of a hot oven, about 40 minutes before dinner was due to be served to finish cooking.
Using the honey and butter produces a lovely toffee/caramel flavour and really brings out the taste of the parsnips. These were the first parsnips of the year and even with the two lighter frosts, the blandness that is inherent in a parsnip that hasn’t seen any frost had been banished. Since then we have had a really, really harsh frost and I am really looking forward to the next serving of honey roasted homegrown, Jack Frost kissed parsnips.