#311 Courgette and Parsnip Boats

If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.
                                            Julia Child

This is a recipe that I, admittedly, have been avoiding. A courgette and parsnip boat? What the heck is the point of that? Of course, I have nothing against neither courgettes nor parsnips, but this seemed a little over the top: scooping out the centres of courgettes and then piping hot parsnip purée inside. Hm. This is a recipe that Grigson was trying to introduce us to the 1970s, and it seems very 1970s – very Fanny Craddock. The recipe comes not from her, but from a certain Julia Child. You may have heard of her.

I suppose I have to bring up the subject of a certain blog-cum-bestselling-book-cum-Hollywood-movie called Julie & Julia, created, of course, by Julie Powell. I cannot believe that she stole my idea! What’s more, I cannot believe that she travelled forward in time only to see my blog, steal my format and then travel back in time to start up her own blog, only to rake in shedloads of cash. Despicable behaviour.

That might be a tiny fib. But I remember being well annoyed when I found out that there was already blogs out there doing the same thing as me. And here I was thinking I had an original idea.

Anyways, back to the matter in hand… Grigson does ‘not apologise for including [the recipe]’, but this non-apology is for the fact she has included a recipe from America. She needn’t apologise for that. However, as a straight-forward lady, I am rather surprised that she included it in here. I think perhaps she was actually trying to introduce us to eating courgettes; I remember them being a rather exotic ingredient in our house growing up the in the 1980s, even though they are just baby marrows. She also goes on to complain of so-called ‘fancy touches’, saying that they are usually an excuse for serving bad food, giving such examples as radish roses on salads and cheap buttercream stars upon margarine cakes. Is this recipe any different though? We’ll see…

In case any Northern Americans are a bit confused about this strange thing called the courgette, I am talking about the zucchini of course.

The recipe serves six people, but you can easily increase or decrease the ratios if there is not six to feed.

Begin by selecting six courgettes around six inches long. Top and tail them and cut each one lengthways before scooping out the seeds. Plunge the courgettes into boiling salted water, blanching them for no more than five minutes. It is important not to over-cook them at this point; they’ll just end up all mushy and flaccid, and you don’t want that. Drain the courgettes and place them on a baking tray, brushing them liberally with melted butter. All this can be done ahead of time.

Next, get to work on the parsnips. Peel and chop two pounds of parsnips, boiling them in salted water until they are tender. Place them in a blender along with an ounce and a half of butter and five tablespoons of double cream. Season and then blitz them well, making sure there are no lumps (see below).

Reheat the courgettes in the oven at 220C (400⁰C) for about five minutes. In the meantime, put the puréed parsnips into a piping bag equipped with an appropriate end. I used a star. Take the courgettes out of the oven and pipe the parsnips in an attractive fashion into the courgette boats.
I have to admit it was good fun doing this bit, though that bag was pretty hot! The main problem was that there was a few lumps of parsnip that kept getting stuck in my piping star. Cue parsnip explosions as the pressure built up in the forefront of my bag. I’m surprised no one lost an eye.
The boats await the rest of the dinner…

#311 Courgette and Parsnip Boats. Well I have to say I did like them. The parsnip was rich and creamy, which was set-off well by the blander courgette. I do wonder if just having a ragout of courgettes and some puréed parsnips made separately wouldn’t be simpler, or indeed better. What I really find odd about this receipt is that Jane Grigson singled this one out as a highlight. I’m sure Julia Childs had some better recipes than this one. 6/10.

#285 Creamed Parsnips

Parsnips don’t seem to be that popular in America, at least compared to Britain. In the USA, carrots and sweet potatoes are much more favoured as a sweet-starchy vegetable. In Europe, parsnips have been cultivated since Roman times, and although in the UK, the wild parsnip is quite a common plant, it has rather pathetic roots,and isn’t worthwhile eating. The parsnips eaten in Britain are therefore not indigenous. They were probably brought over around AD55 during the Roman invasion. The Romans used parsnips in desserts because of their sweet and chestnutty flavour, weirdly, parsnips are used in a cake in English Food that is based upon the recipe for an American carrot cake. Ah, the circle of life.
The European wild parsnip

Creamed parsnips can be served alongside some roast meat, or on their own with toast or in pastry cases as a supper dish, says Griggers. I had them for supper.
Peel, top, tail and quarter a pound and-a-half of parsnips. Remove any woody parts, if the parsnips are large and cut them into batons. Plunge them into boiling, salted water and allow to cook until tender – between five and ten minutes, depending upon the size of you batons. Drain and return to the heat. Stir in a quarter of a pint of double cream (or half-and half double and single). Heat through, season with salt and pepper and stir in some finely chopped parsley. Serve hot.
#285 Creamed Parsnips. Ah the simple things are the best, innit? These were delicious and not at all heavy – the parsley lifted the whole thing, preventing the dish becoming sickly. The creamy sauce and the carby parsnips themselves made the supper feel quite substantial. A hidden, simple gem. 8/10.

#261 Parsnip and Shellfish Salad

Don’t let it ever be said that I don’t like a warm salad. Though I rarely make them, I don’t know why. Britain is not big on its salads really, though America definitely knows what it’s doing. This sort of food is perfect for this time of year – light and fresh, yet warming. Grigson doesn’t mention where this recipe comes from or how old it is and there’s nothing on the Internet regarding it in its historical sense.
This salad is pretty easy to do: quarter some parsnips, cut them into chunky spears and simmer in salted water for around five minutes until tender. Drain. Stir in some salad dressing (I did the one from English Food, though exchanged the sugar for honey). Add some shellfish (prawns or lobster) or some chunky meaty white fish like monkfish – I went for the prawns as I had them already. Arrange some lettuce on a plate and add the parsnips and shellfish. I used an iceberg lettuce, which has developed a stigma for being a bit crap, but I really like them; sweet and crisp (and cheap!). Scatter with chopped chives and parsley.
#261 Parsnip and Shellfish Salad. This was an excellent and easy to prepare salad. The warm parsnips acted like little sponges to the salad dressing and the sweet prawns complimented the earthy flavour of the parsnips. A very good 10 minute dinner. 8/10.

#43 Parsnip Cake

According to the Grigson, she tried putting parsnips rather than carrots in a carrot cake, and according to her, parsnip cake totally shits on carrot cake. We’ll see…carrot cake is my favorite of all cakes, so I’ll be a harsh critic.

The cake itself was easy – a carrot cake recipe with the carrots replaced weight-for-weight with the parsnips. Proper American frosting made from cream cheese, icing sugar and butter is the filling. Hopefully the oven’s worked ok because I’ve made it for cake day this afternoon; where a member of the Evolution group at the University take it in turns to make a cake. It’s the first one we’ve done in a while, so don’t let me down Grigson!
Mix together 12 ounces of peeled and grated parsnip with four ounces of chopped hazelnuts in a bowl. Next make a cake mixture using an electric beater from 13 ounces of caster sugar, 8 ounces of flour, 2 teaspoons each of baking powder and ground cinnamon, a teaspoon of salt and 8 fluid ounces of oil (use a mixture of walnut or hazelnut and sunflower). Beat in 4 eggs individually and stir in the parsnips and nuts plus a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Divide between two buttered and floured 9 inch cake tins and bake for 40 minutes at 180⁰C. Allow to cool on a rack. Make a filling by beating together 8 ounces of full fat soft cheese, 4-6 ounces of softened unsalted butter, 4 tablespoons of icing sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla essence.

FYI: The parsnip was our main carbohydrate staple before the potato was brought over from the Americas. Also, it was thought that it was an aphrodisiac – careful if you try to pick a wild parsnip though, as it’s almost exactly the same as hemlock!
#43 Parsnip Cake – 8/10. Phew! Neither The Grigson or the oven let me down. A lovely moist cake, though I’m not sure if Jane’s Claim of it being better than carrot cake. There is however a recipe for her carrot cake – so there’s only one way to find out!!
Greg says…
“Mostly I made the parsnip cake actually. I pressed all the buttons and everything. It went round and round and out came a cake! Well done me. I gave Pugling a bit of the filling and he made this noise: bleep! I wasn’t allowed a slice until next day but it was worth the wait. Helen tried it too. We made this noise: mmm, ooohhh, mm, ng! Really really good. You would never guess it has parsnips in though. 9/10.”

#32 Parsnip and Watercress Salad

As Greg and I gorged ourselves on Bury Market cheese, we needed something to cut through the richness. I’d seen the recipe for the salad as I was flicking through English Food, and thought that I should only make it when able to get really good produce. Apparently, it’s an early Seventeenth Century dish, and it’s very easy to prepare. The recipe said to use one medium sized parsnip per person, so I doubled that for starters! They were boiled until tender in salted water. While they were boiling, I arranged a head of little gem lettuce in each of our bowls and made a vinaigrette. Jane recommended putting on some toasted nuts and to use the relevant nut oil in the vinaigrette. I used walnut, as I’ve made parsnips salads before that used walnuts. I made it in the ratio of 1 part walnut oil,1 part vegetable oil (as the nut oil by itself can be overpowering) and 1 part white wine vinegar. Then I seasoned it well. This was used to dress the parsnips. The dressed parsnips were arranged in a ring on top of the lettuce. Finally, a pile of watercress was placed in the centre of the dish along with a sprinkle of chopped toasted walnuts.

I’d forgotten how nice the walnut and parsnip combo is, and how lovely and peppery watercress is, I think that people poo-poo it has boring salad. FYI: watercress is one of the three indigenous vegetable to Britain. The others are kale and….Damn! I’ve forgotten the other one. I shall try and find the reference again. It’s weird to think that all other vegetables have been brought in from foreign climbs, including the parsnip!

#32 Parsnip and Watercress Salad – 8.5/10. This is a great salad. Certainly tasty enough to eat on it’s own. I’d have it with some granary bread to mop up any stray vinaigrette at the end!

#26 Roast Parsnips

A quick one cos it’s a bit crappo really! Made a nice tea last night with Yorkshire Puddings (see recipe in blog). I bought some parsnips. Followed the Grigson’s guidelines which turned out to be what I do anyway! Par-boil your parsnips in salted water for about 3 minutes. Add to a hot roasting tin, season, and roast in a hot oven until they’re squidgy in the centre and crispy (but not too crispy) in the outside. If you’re cooking them with roast meat, stick them in the tin alongside it. Curiously enough, the Grigson doesn’t give a recipe for roast or mashed potatoes – maybe she assumes everyone knows how to do it; but then again, if you can do those, you can do parsnips… I’ve also noticed some other omissions from the book and will compile a list, methinks and add my own versions.

Anyway, sorry for the rather uninspiring post today, but it’s all I could muster this week – still have no money. Boo! However, it is Valentine’s Day very soon, so I’ll do something from the book then. I intend to go to Bury Market also and get some offal and weird things.

Here’s the score for the roasts:
#26 Roast Parsnips: 8/10. You’ve gotta love em. The Grigson didn’t give any new info on them though. Anyone know a better way to do them, or is this the best?

Christmas Dinner, numbers 21, 22

I planned to do alot more than I actually did for the Christmas dinner. It did all go down a treat though. However, only two Grigsons were done. Most of the recipes for the meal were taken from the brilliant Leiths Vegetarian Bible that I bought Greg a couple of years back; I would recommend everyone to buy it whether a vegetarian or not. This was the menu:

Starter: Mushroom pate

Main: Nut roast, (#21) Buttered Parsnips, Brussels Sprouts, Roast Potatoes, Minty Peas, Mustard Gravy

Pud: (#22) Little Pots of Chocolate with Rosemary

Parsnips need butter’ says the Grigson. And so right she is. Buttered parsnips is a way to make roast parsnips without roasting them it seems. Boil your parsnips until nearly cooked, drain, and then saute them slowly in butter. They go all nice and golden and chewy. Yumbo! Add some parsley and salt and pepper and you’re done.

The Pots of Chocolate with Rosemary were a strange affair; dissolve 8 ounces of sugar in 8 fluid ounces of dry white wine and lemon juice, add a pint of cream and simmer until it thickens. Now add either a stem of fresh or a teaspoon of dried rosemary (I used dried as they’d run out of fresh at the shop) and 5 1/2 ounces of grated dark chocolate. Simmer for 20 minutes until nice and thick. Pass through a sieve and pour into ramekins to set. All pretty easy. sprinkle with some slivered almonds. The Grigson did warn that it was a very rich dessert, and she was not wrong! Greg and I managed to eat half of one each!
#21: Buttered Parsnips.7.5/10 – A great way to eat parsnips, but are they better the roast!? I don’t think so!

#22: Little Pots of Chocolate with Rosemary Cream. 4.5/10. The combination of rosemary-infused chocolate works very well indeed. But the vast amounts of wine and sugar made far too rich even for me!