There is no denying they are an ugly bunch… oddly shaped, knobbly and just plain awkward. But if you can see past all of this, winter root vegetables really are quite endearing.
Including carrots, beetroot, parsnip, sweet potato, potatoes, turnip, celeriac, Jerusalem artichoke, fennel, rutabaga, daikon, yam and taro root (just to name a few), this collection of vegetables come into their own during the cooler months.
Richly flavoured (some more than others), colourful (again, some more than others) and robust, each of these unique vegetables is packed with goodness. Nutrient-rich (you would be too if you buried your body in the very substance that you drew your nutrients from!) they are generally packed with vitamins A, B and C and iron. They are a great source of slow-releasing carbohydrates and fibre and are low in calories which make them, in many ways, the ultimate ‘health’ food.
When buying winter root vegetables, look for those which are heavy for their size and are firm to touch. Avoid those that look aged, are wrinkled and soft, as this is a good indication that they have been stored incorrectly (or just for too long) and have lost much of their moisture. Once home they are best stored in a plastic bag in the crisper part of your fridge. Alternatively, if you have a lovely cool spot away from light they will be very happy there during winter.
When it comes to baking or roasting them there is no group of vegetables that are more suited. An earthy combination of root vegetables roasted in extra-virgin olive oil and finished with mixed herbs, lemon and punchy ricotta salata make the perfect accompaniments to a meaty roast on a chilly night – they’re also pretty good tossed with some rocket and drizzled with a little balsamic for lunch the next day.
Baked fennel topped with anchovy-flavoured breadcrumbs is also a winning combination. The natural sweetness of the fennel is drawn out during the baking and is balanced well by the saltiness of the anchovies, making it a wonderful side for roasted meats or an unusual addition to an antipasti plate.
The flavour and texture of the Jerusalem artichoke certainly surpasses its ugliness when roasted. I would highly recommend a simple roasting and salt sprinkle for this root if you are unfamiliar with it. Pureeing to a dip or soup once roasted is also a great way make the most of this underutilised vegetable – especially when teamed with chilli and allspice for an unusual, but addictive, starter.
And then there are the root vegetable cakes that you bake such as beetroot and chocolate and the classic carrot cake. One of my favourites at the moment is parsnip and carrot picnic loaf which teams these root vegetable family members with walnuts and lemon in a moist, more-ish and memorable cake – winter has never looked so good!
Cook Anneka's winter root vegetable recipes
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Sarah O'Brien. Food preparation by Tina McLeish.
Anneka's mission is to connect home cooks with the magic of baking, and through this, with those they love. For hands-on baking classes and baking tips, visit her at BakeClub. Don't miss what's coming out of her oven viaFacebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
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