It’s with great anticipation and optimism that I enter the second week of 2011. I hope that for you, the holidays were a joyous affair. If yours were anything like mine then the festivities may have proved just a tad too indulgent. Never one to shy away from a good celebration, it seems there is a limit to how many rich meals, boozy nights and sweet treats I can take before I begin to feel a little uncomfortable in my own skin. It is fortuitous then, that the New Year brings an air of renewal with it and the idea of starting a fresh and becoming refreshed is a natural part of this new year cycle.
That’s not to say that good food and indulgence should end here. It is more that, for me, the focus of January is on creating healthier, energising and revitalising foods that go a long way in nurturing both my body and taste. With the weather outside still icy and cold, and the dark night’s drawing in early, there should still be an element of comfort to the dishes you prepare. I for one cannot bear cold salads or smoothies during the winter months (but love nothing more during the summer); fortunately the starchy vegetables of the season can offer a robust reassurance to your winter suppers.
This particular dish is a wonderful combination of creamy parsnips, sweet beetroot and cherry tomatoes with the added zing of capers, lemon and garlic. Parsnips and beetroot are two of my favourite vegetables, their sweetness belying a complexity of flavours. The addition of robust thyme to the vegetables tempers any overly sweet aspects of the dish, while the gremolata adds a glorious, bright contrast. This would make a wonderful accompaniment to lamb or pork, but I like to serve it with a bowl of whole brown rice (never the long grain) and a deep sigh of contentment.
Warning: you may want to wear rubber or latex gloves while peeling the beetroot, otherwise you can end up with pink fingers for days!
ROAST BEETROOT AND PARSNIP WITH CAPER GREMOLATA
12 cherry tomatoes
2 red onion
4 sprigs of thyme
4 tbsp olive oil
1 whole lemon
For the gremolata
A small bunch of flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
1 clove of garlic
The zest of 1 lemon (use the remaining lemon in the main dish)
Preheat the oven to 180c (160c Fan). Begin by making the gremolata, finely chop the parsley, garlic and capers and mix together with the lemon zest. Cover and chill until ready to use.
Next, peel both the beetroot and parsnips and trim their ends. Cut the beetroot and parsnips into halves or quarters depending on their size – use your own judgement but you want the beetroot pieces to be about 4cm in width and the parsnips to be no wider than 3cm at their thickest. Peel and cut the onions into quarters, then slice the lemon in half. Place the beetroot and olive oil in a large roasting pan, season and mix well to coat the beetroot in the oil. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes.
Remove the beetroot from the oven and add in the parsnips, onion, lemon and thyme. Mix thoroughly and then return to the oven and roast for a further 30 minutes. While they are cooking, slice the cherry tomatoes into halves then remove the vegetables from the oven and scatter over the tomatoes. Return to the oven and roast for a further 10 minutes or until the beetroot and parsnips are tender and starting to caramelise around their edges. Serve the parsnips and beetroot piled high with a generous spoonful of the caper gremolata on top.