January 20, 2010

Wonderful Wednesday Recipe: Parsnip, Potato and Caramelized Onion Mash

~ Parsnip, Potato and Caramelized Onion Mash ~

This recipe came about when I was living in Ireland, where humble root vegetables have long been amongst the strongest backbones of traditional local cuisine. It is an unpretentious, lovely dish that works wonders as either the star or as a supporting player at any cold weather meal. If you opt to use soy, instead of dairy, cream this dish – which is already vegetarian approved – becomes vegan.

A malleable recipe, you can add or subtract from it, swapping the potatoes for rutabagas or yams, if you prefer. Forgo the saffron and use mild, sweet chillies, grainy mustard, fresh or candied ginger, or a handful of your favourite herbs (whether I’m using the saffron or not, I nearly always toss fresh, marvelously soothing thyme into the mix or garnish the dish with it before bringing it, steaming warm and smelling of the inherent comfort that comes from Mother Earth’s bounty, to the table).

{Parsnips, which largely resemble a carrot in appearance and loosely in taste, are one of my absolute most favourite vegetables. Whether eaten on their own such as slow roasted with garlic and rosemary in the oven, or tossed into a hearty stew, I’m always looking for ways to incorporate these mild, versatile winter vegetables into my family’s menu. Antique parsnip seed package image via thelableman.com}

Serve this hearty root vegetable symphony with roast meats (it shines alongside duck and turkey or a lemony, slow cooked chicken), grilled seafood (particularly those with powerful flavours or seasonings), or, if you make this recipe the centerpiece of your meal, a light salad such as one encompassing other beloved winter tastes such as roasted beets, zesty citrus fruit, or glistening ruby red pomegranate seeds.

When I prepare this dish now in my cozy (re: matchbook sized) Canadian kitchen, I am reminded of wet Irish winters that set a chill into bones so far-reaching, it took a recipe comprised of piping hot starchy vegetables, faintly exotic seasonings and pleasingly sweet onions to work the warmth back into one’s very soul.


• 1lb 8oz (675 grams) of potatoes (I often use Yukon gold or Red Rose potatoes on this dish), peeled and cut into cubes

• 3 large parsnips, peeled and cut into cubes (cut the same size as the potatoes)

• 3 tbsp olive oil, plus an additional 3 tbsp to cook the onions in (6 tbsp in total)

• 2 ¼ cups (600ml/1 pint) of vegetable or chicken stock (preferably homemade or organic)

• 2/3 cup single cream (half and half) or soy cream (such as “Silk Creamer” or “Carnation Soy Creamy Cooking Milk”), heated to a gentle simmer directly before use

• 3 tbsp of saffron threads which have been lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle (or with a wooden mixing spoon in a bowl)

• 1 ½ tbsp soft (light or dark) brown sugar

• 1 large white onion (or equal amounts of shallots) peeled and finely sliced

• Kosher or sea salt to taste and freshly ground black pepper


In a large sauce pot over high heat place the stock, potatoes, parsnips and saffron and cover the pot with a lid. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-high, continue to simmer (covered) until all of the potatoes and parsnips are cooked (approximately 20-25 minutes, depending on how warm your stovetop/cooker is and how tender you like your vegetables to be).

Meanwhile heat 3tbsp of oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat and stir in the sliced onions. Cover and allow the onions to brown and absorb the oil. Once they’ve begun to turn a lovely fawny hue, reduce the heat a little and stir the onions occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the pan. They should be sufficiently, wonderfully tender, golden brown and naturally rolling around in their own juices after about ten to fifteen minutes.

Next add in the brown sugar and allow it to be absorbed fully by the onions. Stir for gently for a minute or two until all of the sugar has been dissolved by the onion and onions. Take the onion mixture off heat and set aside until the mashed vegetable portion of this dish is ready.

When the turnips and potatoes have fully cooked to the desired degree of tenderness, remove the pot from the heat and drain the vegetables in a colander (strainer). Reserve a little of the cooking liquid, in case you need to add some of it to the mash for a moister consistency later on.

If you’ve not already done so, heat your cream (or soy cream) in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat just until it comes to a mild simmer (you do not want a rolling boil, which is apt to scorch the cream). Once the cream has been warmed, turn off the burner, but allow the cream to remain in the pot (you’re going to use it momentarily)

Transfer the vegetables to a large mixing bowl and pour the cream and remaining three tablespoons of olive oil over top of them (you could skip the added oil here or use butter, if you wanted). Next mash everything with a vegetable masher (you can also do this in a food processor or stick blender, if you'd prefer) until the mixture is as soft and lump free as possible (alternatively, and this is how I generally mash all of my vegetable dishes, you can whip the lumps out and aerate the root veggies with a hand-held electric mixer/beater). If you feel the mixture is still a bit dry for your liking, add a little of the reserved cooking liquid, so that they end result is a creamy, fluffy mash.

Season to taste with salt and pepper (if you wanted to add fresh herbs, now is the time to include them) and transfer to a serving dish. Slide the warm caramelized onions on top, smile as you breathe in the scent of earthy goodness radiating from up from the serving bowl, and serve at once.

Any leftovers will keep, well covered in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Makes 4-5 side, or 2-3 main, dish sized portions.

Bon appétit!


  1. Potatoes, parsnips and carmelized onions: three of my favourite things. This one is on my "must try" list! :)

  2. It sounds so good, like for a cozy winter day! xx

  3. Ahhh, Jessica!! I adore parsnips, too!! Just the title of this post made me dive in. How delightful, my dear! Thank you for sharing! :)

  4. It really sounds delicious. It isn't very commum in Brazil, but sounds very good, anyway. =)

    I'm missing your comments. They're the most cute ever! =)

    Marina G.

  5. Oh Jessica, I love your recipes! You are making me a hit with my boyfriend :) Can't wait to try this one out!

    Hope all is well and you are having fabulous week so far.

    Much love,


  6. Mmmmm this sounds delicious! What does a parsnip taste like? I'm not sure I've ever experienced one!

  7. Yum!
    Do you deliver? ;-)
    I've been battling the flu, and this just sounds like one of those "warms-the-bones" sort of dishes. :-)

    Have a lovely Thursday!

  8. Ooo if only I was a fan of the parsnip!

  9. That sounds soooo tasty honey.

    re comment...I'm the same, it takes me a while these days :( so don't worry.

    hugs and xxx DJ

  10. I've never really liked parsnips, but i've never had them with potatoes or onions- it sounds delicious! I may have to try this recipe out at the weekend :)

  11. mmmmmm! This sounds so delicious...like the perfect winter evening dish! I am definitely going to try it! Thank you for sharing! :)

  12. Hi Jessica,
    What a lovely sounding recipe. It sounds like a great alternative to plain old mashed potato.
    Thankyou for your sweet comments over the past week, i really appreciate them :)


  13. It sounds delicious my dear Jessica !

  14. Thank you so much for all of your sweet comments! Have a fantastic weekend, Love! :)


  15. I meant to mention this earlier: you lived in Ireland? How wonderful! I visited there waaaaaay back in 2002 and I left part of my heart behind. It is the most beautiful place I've ever been. I long to take my husband there. In fact, I would love to move there one day!

    Happy weekend! Thank you for all your kind comments on my blog. They always brighten my day :)

  16. A perfect comfort food! I must try this recipe soon...right after I finish my sweet potato and parsnip soup!

    Have a wonderful day and weekend to come my dear!


  17. Sincere thanks, lovely dears, for your absolutely terrific comments. It's awesome to know that many of you are parsnip fans, too! (If you've never tasted a parsnip before, they're wonderful and well worth sampling. They taste quite a bit like a cross between a potato, a carrot and a Jerusalem artichoke - well, at least they do to me :D).

    Thank you again, everybody, I hope that you each have a serene, immensely beautiful weekend!
    ♥ Jessica

  18. Wow, I've never been a big fan of parsnips, but due to my love of potatoes, I might just have to try this delicious recipe.
    xo, Jennifer
    P.S. Thank you for all of your wonderful comments Jessica, sorry for taking awhile to catch up on your blog.

  19. Hi sweet Jennifer (my fellow parsnip fan), thank you very much for your comment. Don't worry for a nanosecond, honey, about your "catch up time". No need to ever feel rushed, I love hearing from you any time!

    Giant thanks hugs & thanks for all of your terrific comments!
    ♥ Jessica