How to cook perfect parsnips

The history of the parsnip

The parsnip, or Pastinaca sativa, was considered a luxury by aristocratic Ancient Romans, who served parsnips with honey to enhance their sweetness. It’s thought that Tiberius may have acquired his taste for the vegetables in Germany, where they were first cultivated for their larger root size. Indeed, the Emperor held parsnips in such high regard that he accepted them as currency in tributes from Germany to Rome.

Melanie says: ‘If we aren’t having a Sunday roast, this is my favourite dish to make before going out for a lengthy, crisp and cold country walk and returning home to a house filled with delicious smells because the oven has done all the work. Making the parsnip-and-garlic mash is also blissfully easy and helps with using up any excess from the kitchen garden’.

Guinness braised beef with parsnip-and-garlic mash

Recommended videos for you

Serves 4


50g plain flour, well seasoned
800g braising beef, diced
A splash of olive oil
400g carrots, peeled and cut into 1in pieces
150g celery, cut into 1in pieces
150g shallots, peeled and halved
50g tomato paste
500ml bottle of Guinness
3 sprigs rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
625g parsnips, peeled and chopped
About 600ml vegetable stock, or enough to just cover
200ml whole milk
30g butter
1 clove garlic, crushed


Pre-heat your oven to 160˚C/320˚F/gas mark 3. Roll the beef in the flour and seasoning so each piece is fully coated, then, in an ovenproof casserole dish with a splash of olive oil, brown the meat in batches so that the pan isn’t overcrowded.

Once the meat has taken on a nice colour, remove it to a plate and add the chopped vegetables to the casserole dish, making sure to stir them well so they take up all those lovely juices and flavours. Add the tomato paste and stir for a further minute, before returning the meat to the pan. Next, pour the Guinness over it all, add seasoning and the sprigs of herbs (reserving a little to throw on at the end) and then place the lid on the dish and put it in the oven for two hours. Half an hour before the beef is ready, boil the parsnips in the vegetable stock until tender and drain them in a colander.

Heat the milk in the saucepan and return the parsnips to it, before whizzing them to a purée with a handheld blender. Stir the butter through it, with the crushed clove of garlic, then serve the beef with the parsnip mash, scattered with herbs. 

More ways with parsnips

Chicken and parsnip pilaf

Soak 250g basmati rice in water for half an hour. Rinse under running water and boil until just al dente, then drain and reserve in a colander. Spread Keralan curry paste over six chicken thighs and brown them in the pan, then put the thighs on an oven tray with five peeled, vertically halved parsnips and roast in a moderately hot oven for 20 minutes. Melt 30g butter in the sauce pan and fry an onion until soft, add 2tbspn water and then stir the rice through, before adding 1tspn cinnamon and two cardamom pods. Leave to steam for 15 minutes with the lid on. To serve, stir 10 chopped dried apricots and a handful of fresh parsley through the rice, arrange the roasted chicken and parsnips on top, pour the pan juices over them and add a squeeze of lemon and some zest. Serves four.

Parmesan and Parma ham roasted parsnips

Peel and halve lengthways small parsnips, wrap in Parma ham and roast in a moderate oven for 20 minutes with olive oil and grated Parmesan, before serving with your favourite roast.

* Follow Country Life on Twitter

* Subscribe to Country Life and save