I’ve loved parsnips since I was little. They came only a close second to my beloved turnip. Turnip and white pepper evokes Sunday roasts at my grandmother’s and even as a little girl sneezing her way through clouds of the ubiquitous white pepper that she liked to use on all root vegetables passing through her care, I knew these flavours would stay with me.

Knobbly, pale, if not a little sad looking, these carrot cousins are the best friend of Parmesan, garlic and all things spicy. Parsnips make great soup and elsewhere on these pages you’ll find a curried parsnip soup that’s pretty good. They’re also good as a parmesan chip, see this recipe for roasted parmesan baked parsnips from the great Delia…

Eaten since ancient times and referred to in Greek and Roman literature, parsnips were believed to be an aphrodisiac by the Romans. They’re sweet, high in fiber, a good source of potassium, folate, starch and low in fat. So don’t wait; get out the fashionable Microplane peeler you got for Christmas out and start peeling, chopping and par-boiling.

Frost is necessary for parsnips to grow well so they don’t grow much in hot climates. They’re a trusted winter roast food, a Sunday lunch staple and the best “peas & carrots” substitute when you’ve run out of peas… parsnip mash.jpg

This parsnip mash is easy.

Take several parsnips – you’ll need quite a few per person as they lose a bit in the peeling. Peel them and chop them before bringing to the boil and simmering until cooked. You can eat them al dente or squishy as you wish. They can also be eaten raw but that’s just going too far. Drain them of their cooking water before they get mushy and add a half teaspoon of crushed garlic. Mix well and mash until chunky but not quite purée. Mix in, while still over the heat, plenty of black pepper, a little salt and lots of grated parmesan and serve as is or as a side. So good on a wintry evening.

Use a good parmesan reggiano, as it makes all the difference with it’s salty bite makes a good contrast for the slightly sweet soft parsnip.