Monday 27 December 2010

Roast ham with parsnips

This post, originally published on Monday 27 December, has recently been slightly adjusted in order to qualify for the Blog Carnival called How-To-Find-Great-Plants hosted by Eliza on Appalachianfeet ...

Parsnips and Celeriac, fresh from the garden

Regular followers of my blog will have seen that we have a bit of a family tradition in relation to our Boxing Day meal...for which a huge piece of ham like this

is converted into the ultimate object of gastronomic desirability, like this

As it happens, it is not the ham that I want to write about today. I'm the gardener of the family, so I want to concentrate on my contribution to the proceedings - the parsnips.

Parsnips are vegetables that have had a bit of a bad press. For many people they fit into the same category as Brussels Sprouts - i.e. the least popular. In the UK, lots of people only eat Brussels Sprouts at Christmas time, and then only because they feel they ought to, not because they like them. Parsnips too are often envisaged as dull and tasteless - which they can be if kept for too long and cooked badly. But when you grow your own parsnips and eat them within hours of picking them (or a day or two at most), they will be a real treat. We like to eat them roasted. This way they are less likely to go flabby (as can happen if you boil them). If you drizzle the parsnips with some honey, brown sugar, or some maple syrup when you put them in to roast this will caramelise and make them even sweeter and more.....well, yummy.

This batch of parsnips was in a wide range of shapes and sizes

On Christmas Eve the temperature was not quite as low as it had been for the previous few days and I managed to dig up some of my own parsnips. Their raised bed was still covered with snow, and the soil was frozen to a depth of a couple of inches, so I had to use my Border Fork to ease them out of the ground. This was not easy and regrettably I accidentally speared the biggest parsnip on the tines of the fork. No major harm done though - a slightly damaged parsnip will be OK if used within a couple of days.

So, I peeled the parsnips and smeared them with some goose fat left over from the previous day's turkey meal, and then drizzled them with a generous spoonful of runny honey

Smothered in goose fat and drizzled with honey

When the meat was having the last stage of its cooking (at high temperature - about 200C - uncovered, to brown the fat) I put the parsnips in. They had I suppose a total of about 40 minutes' cooking time, but this is only an approximate figure. The cooking time will vary, influenced by the freshness of the veg and the size of the pieces of parsnip. You just have to keep an eye on them and judge when you think they are ready. Test them by poking them with a knife if you're unsure.

This is what they looked like when they were done. In case you think they look overdone, bear in mind that much of the colouration is in fact the honey, caramelised.

The finished article

OK, so off they went to the table... Other accompaniments to our roast ham were Savoy Cabbage, boiled new potatoes, parsley sauce and Cumberland sauce - and a bottle of Rosé wine. A meal in the same league as our Christmas Day turkey meal I would say!

The gardeners amongst you may want to know what variety of parsnips mine were: they were "Cobham Improved Marrow" (what a lovely old-fashioned name!)


  1. They look delicious. I can't understand the sprout/parsnip haters, they're two of my favourite veggies.

  2. I quite like parsnips cooked in orange juice too!

  3. Hooray! I'm not the only parsnip-lover then...

    Sorry Ellada, no parsnips left - though there is plenty of ham. That piece was 4kg, and there were only four of us eating it, so we ate considerably less than half of it!

  4. We roasted our chicken in a copper casserole for the first time this Christmas. I hadn't realised before that what a dish is made of can have such an big impact on the texture and flavour of what is cooked in it. The chicken was tender and flavoursome and the juices had sunk into the swede, squash and parsnips which were arranged round it so well that even the parsnip tasted good.


  5. Whatever can you mean, Esther??? "... EVEN the parsnips tasted good". Perhaps you could publish a picture of your copper casserole? It sounds great, and I can't really visualise it.

  6. Looks great, I love roast ham at Christmas.

  7. If I answer you, on my blog, I am presuming you will come back. On the off-chance. That is a big ask! So I will copy and paste. And if your readers are mystified, well I hope they will come to mine and see what we are talking about.

    I'll pass on the gammon, but I LOVE parsnips!

  8. We collect our ham from the butcher tomorrow. And the parsnips are waiting in the cool but not frosty loft. Sadly not our own growing, but I'm looking forward to them all the same.

    It's so frustrating when you feel the tines of the fork going through a root veg!

  9. Oh the parsnips look good (and I like them, just like I love brussels sprouts), but I can't go past the ham. Can we talk about the ham a bit more please?

  10. I can't stand brussel sprouts but baked parsnip...MMmmm MMMmmm Mmmm! I love them roughly mashed together with carrots and a bit of butter too.

  11. My parsnips never grow that big! I would need about 20 of them for a proper meal.
    Great recipe and ham is looking just perfect!

  12. Thanks for the enthusiastic comments everyone! My parting shot on the parsnips is this: I reckon they have a good VSR - despite taking up the ground for a long time, the quality of the end result justifies this, and what's more, I can dig lovely home-grown parsnips when there is little else avaiable fresh in my garden. I love them!
    [P.S. If you don't understand VSR, see my post on this subject from 03 November.]

  13. Love sprouts too but our failed to materialise

  14. I'm going to be honest and say that I have never tried parsnips, but after reading your post and the comments, I know it's on my list of foods to try and plants to grow..

  15. Hi Rebecca; It's always nice to "meet" a new friend! I'll also be glad if I have persuaded you to try parsnips. You don't know what you've been missing. Imagine a very seet carrot and you'll be close, but parsnips have a taste that is distinctive and unique. You'll love them. And they are not hard to grow either.


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