So here we are in the early days of February. I for one, cannot believe how quickly this month has passed; the cold is still seeping in to our bones, while our homes and lives seem much the same as they did in 2009, bar perhaps the residue of a serious hangover and a couple of extra pounds. However, we are still very much in winter fare and both the knit of my jumper and the inside of my vegetable box reflects the misty breathed season that is upon us.
I have extolled the virtues of root vegetables before, in particular the humble parsnip. There is no truer English winter vegetable than this: it lends itself perfectly to being roasted alongside potatoes for a Sunday lunch, or perhaps alone with the addition of a few scattered cumin seeds or a light pouring of maple syrup; it can be steamed and then pureed in to an ambrosial cream, perfect for serving with pan fried garlic chicken or a baked ham. However you choose to use it, its starchy sweetness gives us the energy necessary to cope with a real winter’s day and its flavours bring true comfort to the soul.
In this particular dish I combine the parsnips with the flavours of garlic, tomatoes and parsley – a very effortless and very French inspired combination. Although so simple in its ingredients, I promise you the flavours are divine and it seems right that in this frugal month of the year, when warmth and comfort are paramount, we should be eating simply and seasonally and tucking in to a humble plate of Parsnips Provencal. It makes for a wonderful vegetarian lunch or supper, a green salad on the side and perhaps a piece of rye bread to soak up the juices. Alternatively, it can act as a brilliant accompaniment to roasted chicken.
I like to use fresh tomatoes as I think it is reflected in the flavour, but if you are in a hurry, or feel that it is not right to use them out of season; then a tin of chopped tomatoes works equally well.
450g/1lb tomatoes or 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
6 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
A small bunch of parsley
Preheat the oven to 200c (180c fan oven). Peel and trim the parsnips, and cut in to batons approximately 2 inches long by ½ an inch wide. Place the tomatoes in a large bowl, pour over boiling water so that they are covered and then leave for one minute. Drain the water from them and carefully peel away their skins (they should just slide off after an initial bit of coaxing) and then peel and crush the garlic cloves. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and then mix them together with the garlic, a tsp of sea salt flakes, a good amount of ground black pepper and the parsley, chopped in to small pieces.
Place the parsnips in to an oven proof dish, cover in the olive oil and season well, set in the oven and cook for 60 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the parsnips from the oven and pour over the tomato and garlic mixture, cover the dish tightly in tin foil and return to the oven for a further 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve while hot.