Friday, January 16, 2015

Swede and Parsnip Bake with Buttery Crumbs

January this year marks a critical game changer in my career. This week, I finally had to face the day I've anticipated for years, but one that I have also feared vehemently. And now, with my month-long preparation and nerve-wrecking assessments finally behind me, I have but only to wait patiently for my verdict and wholeheartedly get my blog back on full swing.

Earlier this month saw me briefly laying over in Manchester, England, where I indulged in classic pub fare, British real ales and hours upon hours of scouring through grocery stores dotting the downtown. Bleak as it was in Manchester during this time of the year, I was thrilled to get my hands on a variety of in-season, locally farmed produce otherwise inaccessible or entirely unaffordable back home. Winter frosts have brought about sweet, earthy, cream-colored parsnips that I adore, along with other winter roots like the bulbous, purple-green-skinned swede (known as rubatagas in America), both of which are making their debut at my penthouse kitchen.

In celebrating winter and the new year this month, I am excited to bring you a special Winter Series featuring ingredients I handpicked in England. Up first is a hearty, inexpensive baked winter root mash topped with savory, buttery crumbs - a dreamy, flavorsome side for a Sunday Roast or the ultimate Turkey Dinner. Reserve the naturally sweet cooking liquid and use as a stock for Parsnip, Parsley and Leek Soup.

Sweet, earthy, and versatile: winter produce at its peak
I find hot English mustard (apparently committed to the English theme here) a marvellous remedy to round out the earthy, sweet, but otherwise monotonous flavors of the roots. All the better if you have got horseradish. The good news? This dish can be made a day ahead or frozen up to a month and finished in the oven just before serving - way to lighten up your load in the kitchen!

To prepare...
Swede roughly diced into 1-inch cubes
1 swede, peeled and diced
2 large or 5 small parsnips, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon English mustard, or horseradish
1/2 cup coarsely grated cheddar (optional)

For the buttery crumb topping:
A knob of butter
1 small onion, finely minced
1 cup breadcrumbs
A handful of thyme leaves, plus extra for scattering
1/3 cup coarsely grated parmesan


1. Cook the swede and parsnip chunks in boiling salted water, covered, until tender. Drain well, reserving the cooking liquid as stock for future use.
2. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Mash swede and parsnip with butter, milk, and mustard, leaving chunks for texture if desired. Stir in cheddar if using. Spoon into a greased ovenproof baking dish.
 
3. Make the topping. Melt butter in a skillet and cook the onion until golden, 3-5 minutes. Tip in breadcrumbs and stir to crisp a little, removing from heat as soon as breadcrumbs begin to brown. Season with salt and pepper and add the thyme. Spoon the mixture casually over the mash and sprinkle in the parmesan.  

Note: Can be made ahead to this point and kept covered in the fridge for up to a day or frozen for up to a month.

4. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and crispy on top. Serve scattered with thyme.

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A perfect winter side for any holiday meal and roasts