It’s Time for Root Veggies

November 10, 2014 Updated: November 11, 2014

When I was young, we had a root cellar in our garden. I imagine many people still do, especially those living in the country. That’s where our winter store of root vegetables was kept. The root vegetables that do well in a cellar include onions, celeriac, turnips, beets, parsnips, garlic, and, of course, carrots and potatoes.

Some we did not grow were considered quite exotic, such as salsify, daiken (East Indian white radish), shallots, sweet potato, and swedes, a hybridization of turnips and cabbage.

Apparently, squash and carrots are very good for us, and beets are considered a wonder food in that they not only have antioxidant properties but also contain an anti-inflammatory substance.

Parsnip Fritters

Wash young parsnips. One pound serves four. Cook until soft and remove skins. Mash, season with a little butter, add salt and pepper to taste. Shape into small round cakes, roll in flour, and sauté in butter.

Rutabaga Casserole

I large rutabaga or 2 small ones
50 ml (1/4 cup) dry breadcrumbs 
125 ml (1/2 cup) cream 
2 eggs
30 ml (2 tbsp) molasses
Pinch nutmeg

Cook peeled and cubed rutabaga until soft in slightly salted water. Save water. Drain and mash. Soak crumbs in the cream and add to the rutabaga. Beat eggs and add along with the molasses and nutmeg. Add a bit of the cooking water if the mixture is too thick. Butter an oven-proof casserole and pour in the mixture. Pattern the top if desired. Bake at 180º C (350º F) for about an hour.

Harvard Beets

12 small beets 
75 ml (1/3 cup) sugar 
7 ml (1/2 tbsp) cornstarch
50 ml (1/4 cup) vinegar
50 ml (1/4 cup) water 
30 ml (2 tbsp) butter 

Cook beets until soft and the skins come off easily. Slice. Mix sugar and cornstarch. Add vinegar and water and boil five minutes. Add beets to hot sauce and let stand 30 minutes. Just before serving, bring to a boil and add butter.

Duck with Turnips

Makes 4 servings

3 kg (6 lb) duck 
1 small carrot, cut up
Salt and pepper
25 ml (2 tbsp) butter 
125 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine 
1 onion, chopped 
12 white turnips
2 stalks celery, with leaves 
250 ml (1 cup) beef broth
Pinch powdered coriander
Pinch powdered cumin
10 ml (2 tsp) cornstarch

Wipe the duck carefully and rub the cavity with salt and pepper. Butter the duck with 15 ml (1 tbsp) butter and add a little more salt and pepper. Spread rest of the butter in roasting pan. Put the duck in the pan and roast in a preheated 200º C (400° F) oven for 30 minutes. Drain off and reserve all but 25 to 40 ml (2 to 3 tbsp) fat. Add wine and simmer for 5 minutes. 

Add the next three vegetables, broth, and spices. Lower heat to 160º C (325º F). Cover pan and braise for an hour, basting twice. Discard celery and carrots. Quarter and peel the turnips, sauté in a little reserved duck fat, and add to the pan. Continue braising the duck for 30 minutes. 

Carve the duck, surround with turnips and keep warm. Reduce the juices by one-third. Skim off the fat. Mix cornstarch with a little cold water and add to the pan juices. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for five minutes, stirring often. Serve gravy separately in a sauceboat. 

Susan Hallett is an award-winning writer and editor who has written for The Beaver, The Globe & Mail, Wine Tidings, and Doctor’s Review, among others. She is currently the European editor of Taste & Travel International. Email: hallett_susan@hotmail.com