Despite the hunger gap, the atrociously cold weather and all that, we still have parsnips in the garden. Whether they are actually growing any more is debateable, but when they come out this size, does it really matter?
Anyway, size isn't everything, it's what you do with it. Thanks to the fact that we had people for dinner on Saturday night, I had a fridge full of leftovers looking at me when I opened it up this evening, Left over bad stuff, like cheese and cream. I may be on a mission to reduce the circumference of my thighs and ensure that the only muffin tops around here are of the double chocolate variety, but I absolutely cannot see food going to waste, so the challenge was on. What to do with the enormous parsnip - and the leftovers?
Pink's not a fan, so parsnips usually get turned into some sort of soup for the Husband and I, or roasted as a side dish, ideal for her to pick out and be sniffy about (she'd refuse the soup point blank). This evening, though, she was out at a friend's so Blue and I got stuck in to some proper parsnip action.
A quick Google based on what I had in the fridge turned up 2 possibles - both gratins - one from Abel & Cole and one from a website called Epicurious - so we combined the two, in doing so using up the left over cream and Cashel Blue cheese from Saturday night, and raiding the garden for the only other things that are growing with any enthusiasm at the moment - sage and rosemary.
I'm pleased to report that Blue got properly stuck in to the whole thing. Much as he'd hate to admit it, he's a bit lost when his little sister isn't around for hi-jinking or fighting, depending on the mood they are both in (actually, if we're being strictly honest, usually it depends on the mood Pink is in) and so it was good to get him involved while she was off giggling with her friend.
The result was a delicious creamy (of course) warming dish, full of flavour - great food for a
chilly winter Spring evening.
Parsnip & Bacon Gratin with leeks, hazelnuts & blue cheese
Serves 3-4 depending on appetite
700g (peeled weight) parsnips, thinly sliced lengthways
200g (ditto) carrots, also thinly sliced
1 large leek, thinly sliced and washed
200g pancetta/bacon cut into pieces
250ml or so double cream & creme fraiche, thinned with a little milk if necessary
1 good tsp dijon mustard
2-3 sprigs of rosemary, needles only & a handful of sage leaves, finely chopped
80g or so* blue cheese (we had Cashel blue in the fridge), grated
salt & pepper
Pre-heat your oven to 200C
Put the parsnips and carrot into a large pan of salted water. Bring to the boil and cook for 3-4 minutes, then drain and leave to steam dry-ish.
While the veg is cooking, lightly toast the hazelnuts in a small frying pan, then when cool enough to handle roughly chip them and set aside.
Fry the bacon/pancetta till mostly cooked; drain off most of the fat (if a lot has been produced) then add the leek and cook for a few more minutes till the leek is softened.
Whisk together the cream, creme fraiche, mustard and milk if you need it, and then add in the herbs and salt and pepper.
To assemble, first put a layer of parsnip and carrot into your gratin dish, drizzle over about a third of the cream mixture and sprinkle with half the hazelnuts. Spread the leeks and bacon over this, then layer on the rest of the parsnips. Pour over the rest of the cream then sprnkle over the rest of the hazelnuts and the grated cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes of so till the parsnips are cooked, the sauce is bubbling and there's a delicious crunchy topping on your gratin.
If I'd had any salad in the fridge, I think it would have been good with it - something like watercress - but as it was we didn't, so we just ate it as it was. Delicious**.
I'm linking up to this month's Herbs on Saturday hosted by London Busy Body this month for Karen at Lavender & Lovage
I'm also linking up the March Simple and in Season hosted by Louisa at Chez Foti
* The chunk started off at 80g but Blue is very fond of blue cheese and I didn't keep an eye on how much was being grated and how much was being gobbled...
** I was quite surprised by how much Blue enjoyed this, regardless of the amount of effort he put into making it - those who read this regularly will know that I'm usually gnashing my teeth about how he doesn't like anything 'crunchy' like this gratin topping or the top of a cottage pie, and my efforts to get him to eat less sophisticated things with a cheese sauce - macaroni/cauliflower cheese have met so far with dismal failure. May be his tastes are changing - or may be it was the cream and blue cheese combo. Watch this space.