I made this dish for husb and me for dinner on Good Friday, following an utterly pleasant, boy free day sitting in bird hides in Goldcliff (part of the wetlands reserves near Newport) with binoculars, surrounded by silence except for the calling of lapwings and general sounds made by preening waders (including beautiful avocets); a trip to B&Q to purchase plants and shrubs for the front garden; and a visit to husb's work for him to remove some models from the 3D printer (exciting stuff!). All the sorts of things you cannot do with two small boys following and fiddling.
This was another superbly simple recipe from Hugh F-W, to which I added chicken breast just to make it a little more substantial for an evening meal. Here are the main ingredients...
Hugh says to put the parsnips straight in the oven, but I am always suspicious when I am requested to put root vegetables directly into the oven without par-boiling, so I gave them a quick simmer. When I was just starting out as a cook, probably about ten or so years ago, I would blindly follow when told to, for example, put baby potatoes in the oven for half an hour until golden and crispy. In half an hour, without even par-boiling? You must be joking! So just to be certain of having edible roots, I tend to do this.
Whilst roasting the parsnips, I also roasted the two chicken breasts, which I subsequently shredded into bite size pieces ready to place on the salad with the parsnips. There is something about the taste and texture of shredded chicken, as opposed to chicken cut into cubes before cooking, which I really like. Perhaps here, it's also to do with the fact that the chicken has been roasted. But I will often, if possible, rather than cube chicken, cook the breasts whole either by roasting or on the hob in the pan with whatever sauce or stock the recipe requires, and shred it once cooked before returning it to the dish. Obviously this dooesn't work for stir-frys, and, ironically, another of my favourite tastes is chicken stir-fried in soy sauce, slightly charred, so the soy sauce sticks to the frying pan; I scrape it off and straight into my mouth it goes! I really do digress!
Regarding timings for this dish, I put the parsnips in for a total of forty minutes, adding the chicken ten minutes into the cooking time, and the apples, which you roast with the parsnips, twenty minutes in. This meant that everything was ready together.
In the last ten minutes of cooking, I dry fried the hazelnuts. Not for ten minutes, please note, only for a few, but this gives you a bit of extra time to rub off as much skin as you can, or as you want, as frying releases the skins beautifully from the nuts. A warning however, burning will take them past that point and make the skins impossible to remove.
In a moment of calm whilst everything was in the oven, probably between the apples going in and beginning to roast the hazelnuts, I made the dressing, which consists of rapeseed oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic, English mustard and runny honey, simply whisked (or spooned in this case) together in a bowl, which basically looks like this...
Following those rather uninspiring progress shots, if you've made it to here, you really deserve to be rewarded. I hope the finished dish will be rather more inspiring. I just added the salad to the bowls, followed by the chicken, parsnips then a sprinkling of hazelnuts, and a large glug of dressing to top it all off, not forgetting the all important seasoning.
Actually, a perfect Spring supper.
Obviously we did eat it with knives and forks!
So another delicious recipe from River Cottage Light and Easy, a book I highly recommend for something slightly different, but also because it has a focus on not relying on gluten and wheat laden breads and grains, but seeking out different and unusual alternatives.
Thank you so much for reading.