Saturday 3 August 2013

Spicy Parsnip, Butternut & Chickpea Salad with Soy-Roasted Seeds

My husband, who spent his early years in England, is besotted with parsnips, and whenever he sees a pack he buys them and hands them to me with a hopeful look on his face. I usually toss them into the oven along with the roast potatoes, or make a fluffy parsnip mash. They're excellent in warm salads too, particularly if they're roasted first at a fierce heat, which brings out their nutty sweetness. In this winter salad, I've combined them with chickpeas, roast butternut, feta, spices, mint, chives, coriander and - for essential texture and crunch - soy-toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

Spicy Parsnip, Butternut & Chickpea Salad
Spicy Parsnip, Butternut & Chickpea Salad. Do you like my plate? I
bought it in a junk shop this week; in its centre there is a handsome peacock.
This is good at room temperature, and keeps well in the fridge, but it's very good when the root vegetables are still hot. I've written the recipe with the assumption you're going to serve it right away, which involves getting all the cold ingredients ready to go while the veggies are roasting. (Read more about my recent obsession with hot-and-cold salads here.)

The first time I made (and photographed) this dish, I used some finely sliced red onion, but it was too aggressive, so when I made it next I added plenty of chopped chives, which have just the right gentle oniony bite.

It isn't necessary to rinse tinned chickpeas if they're in a clear, thin liquid, but I had to wash the organic ones I bought from Woolworths, which were suspended in a peculiar and unappetising gloopy gel.

It's also not compulsory to splash Kikkoman soy sauce over the toasted seeds, but I love the way this adds a salty burnish to each seed.

A final dusting of excellent paprika adds a lively tingle to this dish. I love the mildly hot, smoked variety of La Dalia Pimentón de la Vera, which you can buy in good delicatessens, or order online from Yuppiechef.

Spicy Parsnip, Butternut & Chickpea Salad with Soy-Roasted Seeds

10 medium parsnips, trimmed and peeled
1 packet (about 3 cups or 400 g) ready-peeled butternut chunks
3 Tbsp (45 ml) olive oil
salt and milled black pepper
1 large lemon, halved
1 orange, halved
2 x 400 g tins chickpeas, drained
150 g feta cheese, roughly crumbled, plus extra for topping
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed, or more, to taste
½ cup (125 ml) chopped fresh coriander [cilantro]
½ cup (125 ml) finely chopped chives
¼ cup (60 ml) finely chopped mint
1 tsp (5 ml) cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) coriander
1 tsp (5 ml) medium-strength curry powder
60 ml sunflower seeds
80 ml pumpkin seeds
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) Kikkoman soy sauce
1 tsp (5 ml) good smoked paprika
extra lemon juice & extra-virgin olive oil, for dressing

Heat the oven to 200 ºC. Cut the parsnips into large chunks (I slice the fat end quite thickly, half-mooning the biggest slices, then cut the thinner end into 2-cm batons). Line a baking tray with kitchen paper and add the parsnip and butternut pieces. Sprinkle with 3 Tbsp of olive oil, then squeeze over the juices of one half each of your lemon and orange. Put the squeezed-out halves into the tray, and season the veggies with salt and pepper.

The alt title of the recipe here
Put the squeezed-out lemon & orange
halves in the roasting dish so you can
add their pulp to the salad.
Roast for 30-40 minutes at 200 ºC, fan on, or until the veggies are very soft, and just beginning to char at their edges.

In the meantime, rinse the chickpeas under cold running water (see my comment, above), drain well and place in a mixing bowl. Add the feta, garlic, coriander, chives and mint. Squeeze the juice from the remaining half-lemon and half-orange into the salad and mix well.

Set to one side.  Heat a dry frying pan over a medium-low heat and gently toast the pumpkin and sesame seeds for a few minutes, or until they are crisp and beginning to make soft popping noises. Watch them like a hawk, as they can burn fast.

Sprinkle the soy sauce over the seeds and mix well. As soon as all the soy sauce has evaporated - this will take not much longer than 30 seconds - whip the pan off the heat and set to one side.

Measure the spices out into a small bowl. Remove the cooked vegetables from the oven and immediately sprinkle the spices all over them, tossing well to coat (the residual heat from the veggies will help to release the fragrances).

Tip the hot butternut and parsnip pieces into the salad. Using a pair of tongs, squeeze the hot pulp from the lemon and orange into the bowl. Toss everything together very gently and thoroughly, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

You may need to add more lemon juice to the salad to achieve a pleasant acidity, especially if you leave it to stand for several hours. Chickpeas suck up flavours eagerly, and the lemon juice fades quickly into the background.

Tip the salad onto a platter, sprinkle generously with olive oil and top with the toasted seeds, some extra crumbled feta, and a generous dusting of smoked paprika.

Serves 4 as a main meal, 6 as a side dish

Like this recipe? Try my Parsnip, Potato and Cumin Cakes with Crème Fraîche and Chives

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