Winter Roots (Savoury)


You are loving those root veggie cakes in last week’s column, so staying with those delicious Winter roots this week, some savoury recipes…Several are new discoveries; others are old favourites.

Thinking about what to include made me realise just how much we rely on root vegetables as a foundation for so many dishes.  Potatoes are, of course, a powerhouse of nutrients, but also carrots, parsnips and swedes are inexpensive and produce so many delicious, nutritious and Wow-making dishes.  Not just comforting favourites – after all, who doesn’t love a time-honoured carrot and parsnip mash with lots of chopped parsley and a big dollop of butter. 

But have you been roasting your carrots?  This has been a revelation for me since I first tasted a delicious roast carrot, labne, pistachio and watercress dish at a restaurant in New York a couple of years ago.  Since then, I’ve been roasting roots in a myriad of different ways, not just a tray of diced vegetables, delicious as they can be when flavoured with gutsy Winter herbs, anointed with a good olive oil, and most importantly, served immediately.  Wizendy roast vegetables lose their charm very quickly when left in a warming oven.

Jerusalem artichokes are a ‘must have’ Winter root – if you haven’t already planted them in your garden or veg patch, do!  Anyone and I mean, anyone can grow them.  Where you plant one this year, you’ll dig up 8 or 10 next year.  Meanwhile, check out your Farmers Market or greengrocer or ask your supermarket to stock them and start to experiment.  They make delicious soups, gratins, purées and are sublime roasted.  Furthermore, they are magic from the nutritional point of view – the highest inulin of any vegetable so they stimulate beneficial microbes in your gut-biome – brilliant for both your physical and mental health…and that’s not a myth…

And don’t forget the humble Swede, many of our recipes elevate this ridiculously inexpensive Winter root to new heights.  Rory O’Connell slathers a delicious puree of Swedes with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan.  We also love a gratin of Swedes with Thyme Leaves and Bacon and how about Persian Chickpea Stew which includes the aquafaba (cooking liquid from the tin) which gives the bean stew a delicious texture. 

Add some chunks to an Irish stew to up the vegetable content and boost the flavour even further.

Let’s not forget parsnips, now even sweeter after those few nights of frost – a simple salad of grated parsnips, dressed with lemon and honey is a revelation, fresh tasting and delicious and made in minutes.  We also love them roasted as a side or in combination with other vegetables, peppery rocket and winter greens in a salad.  Split them in half lengthways, then into manageable size pieces for extra impact. 

The possibilities are endless – here are a few suggestions and there are lots more in many of my cookbooks.  Have you come across my latest book ‘How To Cook’?  It’s got 100 simple recipes everyone should know and is getting lots of very positive feedback – thank you all.

Roast Carrots with Labneh, Pistachio and Watercress

Roast the carrots.  This salad is a game changer, inspired by a dish I enjoyed during my last visit to New York…

Serves 6

600g (1 1/4lbs) whole young carrots

4-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

a generous tablespoon of honey

1 teaspoon cumin, roasted and coarsely ground

1 teaspoon coriander, roasted and coarsely ground

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1-2 tablespoons Aleppo pepper

75-175g (3-6oz) Labneh (see recipe)

watercress or rocket leaves

50-75g (2-3oz) pistachio nuts, very coarsely chopped

sea salt flakes

extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8

Scrub the carrots, dry, split in half lengthwise, if too big.  Put into a large bowl.  Drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil and honey.   Mix the roast and coarsely ground cumin and coriander together.  Sprinkle over the carrots.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, toss gently to coat evenly.  

Spread out in a roasting tin.   As soon as you put the trays into the oven reduce the heat to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

Roast for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally until the carrots are almost tender and caramelized at the ends and edges.

Remove from the oven.  Sprinkle with Aleppo pepper and toss.

To Serve

Put a few watercress springs on a plate.  Top with 3-5 pieces of roast carrot.  Add a few blobs of labneh and scatter with a sprinkling of coarse pistachio nuts, a few flakes of sea salt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Serve soon, best when the carrots are still slightly warm.

Soft Yoghurt Cheese – Labneh

This thick, creamy, soft cheese from the Middle East is so easy to make and so wonderfully smooth that your friends will be mightily impressed if you produce it for a dinner party. This is an old recipe. I believe that dairy items like these were once made everywhere in Europe and elsewhere over many centuries and then forgotten at some stage, probably during industrialisation, so I have borrowed from those places where the traditions survived. Labneh is a real treat and an easy way to dabble in cheesemaking. It is also much-loved by children and is a good way for you to pass on your knowledge of old skills to them. It can be used for sweet or savoury dishes.

Use whole-milk yogurt for a creamier cheese – this can be made from cow’s, sheep’s or goat’s milk. You can also use commercial yogurt.

Makes 500g (18oz) labneh approx.

1kg (2 1/4lbs) natural yoghurt

Line a strainer with a double thickness of sterilised cheesecloth. Place it over a bowl. Pour in the yogurt. Tie the four corners of the cheesecloth to make a loose bundle and suspend this bag of yogurt over a bowl. Leave it in a cool place to drip into the bowl for 8 hours. Then remove the cheesecloth and put the labneh in a bowl. Refrigerate overnight, and store until needed in a covered glass or plastic container. The liquid whey that has drained off can be fed to pigs or hens.


The labneh should be like softly whipped cream.  If thicker, simply stir back in some whey. 

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Avocado and Roasted Hazelnuts

Jerusalem artichokes are a sadly neglected winter vegetable. They look like knobbly potatoes and are a nuisance to peel, but if they are very fresh you can sometimes get away with just giving them a good scrub. Not only are they a smashing vegetable but they are also delicious in soups and gratins. They are a real gem from the gardeners point of view because the foliage grows into a hedge and provides shelter and cover for both compost heaps and pheasants!

Serves 8-10

50g (2oz) butter

1.1kg (2 1/2lbs) Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed, peeled and chopped

600g (1 1/4lbs) onions, chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.2L (2 pints) light chicken stock (you may need a little more)

600ml (1 pint) creamy milk approx.


2 avocados, peeled and diced

4 tablespoons chopped roasted hazelnuts

4 tablespoons hazelnut oil

4 tablespoons chopped chives

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the artichokes and onions. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, cover and sweat gently for 10 minutes approx.  Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are soft. Liquidise and return to the heat. Thin to the required flavour and consistency with creamy milk and adjust the seasoning. This soup may need more stock depending on the thickness required.

Serve in soup bowls or in a soup tureen. Season the diced avocados with salt and pepper, then sprinkle the diced avocado and chopped roasted hazelnuts over the soup. Drizzle with a little hazelnut oil and chopped chives and serve.

Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa

1 ripe avocado, halved, stone removed, peeled and diced into neat scant 1cm (1/2 inch) dice

3 tablespoons of hazelnuts, roasted, skinned and coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons of hazelnut or olive oil

1 tablespoon of chopped flat parsley

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix the ingredients for the avocado and hazelnut garnish. Taste and correct seasoning. This mixture will sit quite happily in your fridge for an hour as the oil coating the avocado will prevent it from discolouring.

Persian Chickpea Stew

A veggie take on Khoresh Gheymeh which is usually made with beef.

Serves 4-6

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

400g (14oz) onions, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon cumin, finely roasted and ground

1 teaspoon freshly roasted and ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

400g (14oz) very ripe tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and diced or 1 tin of chopped tomatoes in Winter

2 x 400ml (14fl oz) coconut milk

200ml (7fl oz) vegetable stock

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) aquafaba (liquid from tin of chickpeas)

175g (6oz) swede turnip, diced into 2cm (3/4 inch)

100g (3 1/2oz) potato, diced into 2cm (3/4 inch)

50g (2oz) sultanas

a generous pinch of saffron

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of chickpeas

salt and freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of sugar

freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime


1 large ripe tomato, deseeded and diced

50g (2oz) almonds, toasted and halved

100g (3 1/2oz) frozen desiccated coconut

1 generous handful of fresh coriander sprigs

Heat the extra virgin olive oil.  Add the onion and cook for 10-15 minutes on a medium heat until it starts to caramelize.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add all of the spices except the saffron and cook for a further 2 minutes.  Add the chopped tomatoes.  Cook for 5 minutes then add the coconut milk, stock and aquafaba.  Bring to the boil, add the swede turnip and diced potatoes, sultanas and saffron.  Season with salt and pepper and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.  Add the chickpeas.  Bring back to the boil and season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch of sugar.  Taste, correct the seasoning and add the juice of 1 lime or more to taste.  Garnish with the diced fresh tomato, toasted flaked almonds, frozen desiccated coconut and lots of fresh coriander.

Rory O’Connell’s Gratin of Swede Turnips, Potatoes, Thyme Leaves and Bacon Gratin

This is a robust warming gratin made with one of my favourite winter vegetables, the cheap and cheerful swede turnip.

Serves 8-10

450g (1lb) swede turnip, peeled and sliced into 4 mm slices

450g (1lb) potatoes, peeled and sliced into 3mm thick slices

110g (4oz) lardons of smoked or unsmoked bacon

1 tablespoon olive oil

110g (4oz) grated parmesan

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

350ml (12fl oz) cream or chicken stock (see recipe)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 x 1.5 litre (2 1/2 pints) ovenproof gratin dish

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and season with a good pinch of salt. Drop in the sliced turnips, bring back to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. The turnips will have tenderized slightly but will not be fully cooked. Strain out the turnips, reserving the water for cooking the potatoes. Place the turnips on a tray lined with a tea towel.

Bring the water back to the boil and add the sliced potatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 minute only. Strain and rinse under the cold tap and place on a tray lined with a tea towel like the turnips.

Heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and add the bacon lardons. Cook, stirring until the bacon is crisp and golden.  Strain out the bacon and place on a piece of kitchen paper towel to drain.

To assemble the gratin, grease the gratin dish with a light smear of butter. Place on a layer of the turnips and potatoes, followed by a sprinkle of thyme leaves, a sprinkle of lardons of bacon and a sprinkle of the grated parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Splash on a little of the cream. Repeat the process finishing the gratin with a final sprinkle of the cheese.

Place the gratin in a bain-marie in the preheated oven and cook for 60-80 minutes. After 60 minutes, test the gratin with a skewer to see if the potatoes and turnips are tender. The skewer should go through the vegetables with no resistance and the top of the gratin should be a rich golden colour. The cooked gratin will sit happily in the oven for an hour before serving with the temperature reduced to 50°C/120°F/Gas Mark 1/4.

Roast Parsnip, Apple and Toasted Hazelnut Salad

Roast walnuts or pecans are also a good combination if hazelnuts are not available.  Swap out roast parsnips for Jerusalem artichokes here – also a delicious combo.

Serves 8

2 large or 4 medium sized parsnips

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or rapeseed oil

4 dessert apples, cut into eighths, cores removed

6 good handfuls of salad – tiny beetroot and kale leaves

75g (3oz) lightly toasted hazelnuts

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with a little salt

1 teaspoon English mustard

2 teaspoons honey

1 tablespoon lemon juice

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or rapeseed oil

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

Peel and quarter the parsnips, remove the woody cores, then chop them into roughly 4cm (1 1/2 inch) pieces.

Put the parsnips on a large roasting tray in a single layer. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat them. Roast for 10 minutes, take them out of the oven and add the apple pieces and return to the oven for about 15 minutes or until everything is tender, golden and slightly caramelised.

Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together. 

When the parsnip and apple pieces are fully cooked, transfer them to a salad bowl and toss them in the dressing.  Taste and correct the seasoning.

Arrange a pile of salad leaves on a plate, top with the warm, dressed parsnip and apple.  Scatter with roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts.  Serve with crusty bread.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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