I love a parsnip. Okay, partly because 'parsnip' is such a great word (it sounds like the tip of a pair of sharp scissors snicker-snacking a parson's robe) but also because this humble vegetable is so earthily delicious, so cheap, so nourishing and so easy to cook. It might not be the most alluring-looking vegetable, with its whiskers and scrawny legs, but it has a lovely, nutty flavour that I find quite addictive.
These pancakes are similar to latkes, but have a warm hint of cumin. I wouldn't consider making them if I didn't have a food processor, which makes the preparation so quick and easy. If you don't have a food processor, grate the ingredients by hand. If you have the patience.
I can't quantify the size of the potatoes or parsnips in this recipe, because I don't know how big yours are (that sounds rude; parsnippy snicker!). But the ratio of potato to parsnip should be roughly equal.
Parsnip, Potato and Cumin Pancakes with Crème Fraîche and Chives
For the 'pancakes':
the juice of one lemon
1 onion, peeled and cut into chunks
3 medium-sized, floury potatoes
3 fat parsnips
2 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and crushed
2 t (10 ml) ground cumin
salt and freshly milled black pepper
vegetable oil and butter, for frying
For the topping:
snipped fresh chives
Cut the lemon in half and squeeze its juice into a deep mixing bowl. Put the onion chunks into the goblet of a food processor and blitz until finely chopped, but not a mushy paste. Leave them in the food processor bowl. Fit a coarse grating blade to your food processor. Peel the potatoes, cut them into chunks, and feed them quickly through the grater. Peel the parsnips and do the same. Tip the blitzed onions, and the grated potatoes and parsnips into the bowl containing the lemon juice and, using your hands, toss well (this will prevent the gratings from browning). Leave to stand for 15 minutes, and then tip the contents of the bowl into a sieve or colander. Place the sieve over the sink, and, using your hands, press down on the gratings to squeeze out any remaining liquid.
Put the gratings back in the bowl and stir in the crushed garlic and cumin. Season with salt and pepper.
Place a few sheets of absorbent kitchen paper on your counter, next to the stove. Heat equal quantities of vegetable oil and butter in a large, flat frying pan (to a depth of about 2 mm). When the butter has stopped sizzling, take a handful of the grated mixture, squeeze it well to remove any more liquid, and place a mound of it in the hot fat. Using a spatula, press down hard on the mixture to compress it into a flat pancake. Allow it to brown, pressing down on it once or twice, but not stirring or poking, for three minutes, or until the edges are golden and crispy and the 'pancake' is holding together. If the frizzly edges are turning to a dark, dangerous brown, turn down the heat. Flip the pancake over, and fry for another three minutes, or until golden brown and crisp.
Drain on kitchen paper.
To serve, top each pancake with a teaspoon of crème fraîche, and a shower of snipped chives.
Makes about 12 small pancakes.