Purée de panais au cumin

Parsnip purée with cumin

This recipe transforms the humble parsnip into an elegant dish that can be served as a side or on its own as the star of a vegetarian meal.

The recipe calls for whole cumin seeds that you will dry roast before adding to the purée, a technique I learned from Indian cooking. The roasting releases the full aroma of the cumin. If you don’t have cumin seeds on hand, substitute 1/2 tsp. of powdered cumin — but the effect will not be the same.

2 large parsnips
2 tsp. sea salt or table salt
1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
2 tbsp. crème fraîche or heavy cream
3-4 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil.

Using a carrot peeler or sharp paring knife, peel the parsnips. Slice into thin rounds.

When the water boils, add the sea salt and the parsnip rounds. Cook until very tender, about 15 minutes.

While the parsnips are cooking, dry roast the cumin seeds. Heat a dry pan (no oil) over a high flame, add the seeds and roast, shaking occasionally to prevent burning. As soon as the seeds start to release their aroma, shake them onto a plate to stop the cooking process.

When the parsnips are tender, drain through a colander. Return to the pot and mash with a fork. Add the cream and mash again. Stir in the milk one tablespoon at a time to lighten the purée. Add the lemon juice. If  you’d like a smoother texture, blend now.

Add the roasted cumin. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Grind in some black pepper.

When ready to serve, reheat gently. You can add a little water to the pot to prevent sticking. Serves 2-3.

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