One of my very favourite Delia Smith recipes is this lovely way with roast parsnips, where she tosses them in grated parmesan and flour before cooking. My Grandma used to make Delia’s parsnips every Christmas, and there was always a fight over who got the last few.
It’s funny, really; in the UK, parsnips are a very ordinary accompaniment to a roast dinner, a slightly posh vegetable to be rolled out only on Sunday lunchtimes. Elsewhere in the world, the parsnip is considered more appropriate for feeding animals than people. Part of this is down to our climate. Parsnips need exposure to frost for their flavour to be fully developed, so in warmer places the parsnip is a less impressive beast, weedy and comparatively flavourless – hence the French tendency to feed them to pigs rather than people.
This is my version of the Delia recipe my Grandma used to cook. I’ve changed the fat used – you’ll get a much better crisp using dripping, and the flavour you’ll achieve with a good butcher’s pot of beef dripping is amazingly good if you serve these next to roast beef . I’ve also upped the ratio of parmesan and added some curry powder (always unbelievably good with a parsnip) and lots of lemon zest and fresh basil, which lifts the whole dish. Result: crunchy, savoury parsnips, sweetly fluffy inside and amazingly crisp outside – and so delicious you too will be fighting over the leftovers.
To serve eight with a roast, you’ll need:
175g plain flour
100g parmesan, grated finely
1 tablespoon medium curry powder (I like Bolst’s)
Grated zest of 2 lemons
1 heaped teaspoon salt
3 large tablespoons beef dripping
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Put a heavy roasting dish containing the dripping in the oven as it heats up. Combine the flour, parmesan, curry powder, salt and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl. Peel the parsnips and cut them in half across their width. Cut the top half of each parsnip into four long pieces, and the bottom half into two.
Cook the prepared parsnips in boiling water for five minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and drain the parsnips a few at a time, rolling the steaming-hot parsnips in the flour mixture and setting aside on a plate. When all the parsnips are coated thoroughly, remove the roasting dish from the oven and arrange the parsnips in the hot fat (careful – it may spit). Put the dish of parsnips high in the oven for 20 minutes, turn the parsnips and put back in the oven for another 20 minutes.
When the parsnips are ready, they’ll be a lovely golden colour. Remove them to a serving dish and sprinkle generously with basil.