A mini Christmas, all of my own.

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind of job applications and agency interviews recently, so much so that my brain has been distinctly frazzled when it comes to cooking, churning out the same old thing because it’s easy. My usuals are okay, but every so often I need a change.

I was on my way back from another agency when I stopped at the big Tesco by Liverpool Street station. This store used to be fabulous, stocking pretty much everything you could wish for, but then they redesigned the shop floor and, of course, that meant losing lines. Despite this, it’s still not a bad supermarket, even if they have crammed everything in so you feel rushed and claustrophobic, but I suppose at least that makes people get out fast.

I found fresh chestnuts, and decided on a whim to buy those, and some parsnips plus a Gressingham poussin. A nice solo dinner, with a Christmas edge. I bought Purple Sprouting Broccoli too, but that’s awaiting my attention in the fridge.

I got home and unpacked my haul, realising that I had enough parsnips in my £1 bag to make not only my dinner, but also a cake as well.

I set about grating the parsnips and putting this fabulous cake recipe from Sabrina to the test. (obviously cake before dinner right?)

It was easy to do, and I came out of it with only minor battle scars. Apparently my box grater is about due to be replaced, and the knuckle of my thumb bears testament to this. Ow. 

My tweaks were to leave out the nuts, because I had none, cut down the amount of baking power to 1 level teaspoon and the bicarbonate of soda to 3/4 of a teaspoon, as I am quite sensitive to the taste of those, and to add 1 tsp mixed spice plus an additional tsp of Rose extract. Oh, and to use olive oil and Demerara sugar as that was all I had in. Sorry Sabrina! I fiddled again!

The smell of that cake as it bakes is lovely. The Demerara gives it a caramel note, and I added the mixed spice to make it more Christmassy, as I want to take it to my in-laws on Sunday for our early Christmas dinner, planned because I’m flying out to see my Mum in Cyprus for the holidays.

I can also say that having your electronic scales die on you as you carefully pour in the oil to a cake mix can leave one temporarily flustered because of course you cannot remember the digital reading before they died.

Parsnip and Honey Cake

225g plain flour

3/4 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

1 level teaspoons baking powder

2 heaped teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 level teaspoon mixed spice

4 medium free range eggs

100ml clear honey (I used a Greek herb honey)

200g Demerara sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon Rose extract

180ml of rapeseed oil or olive oil

400g of parsnips, peeled and finely grated (this ended up at 300g grated weight)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (or 170, if fan assisted)

Mix flour, raising agents and cinnamon in one bowl.

Whisk eggs, honey, oil, extracts and sugar in another bowl until properly amalgamated. (I had to guess the oil, as my scales died as I was pouring the oil in!)

Pour into the flour, add the grated parsnip and mix very well.

Pour into a springform cake tin that’s been lined with baking paper. (I oiled the paper.)

Bake for 45-50 minutes. (Mine took longer, I suspect my tin was a bit small, so it took an hour.)

I can’t wait to try this. I can’t take a photo of the slice, as I won’t actually cut it open until Sunday, but here is Sabrina’s cake. Smile


Next up was Actual Dinner.

I had roasted the chestnuts as per instructions found on the internet, but they turned out to be very dry, and almost impossible to remove from the shell. Luckily I found a tin of unsweetened chestnut puree in the cupboard, so my dreams of a parsnip and chestnut mash were fulfilled.

Take one cast iron/oven proof pan. Heat it slightly on the cooker, then pop in the poussin.

Douse with olive oil, pop a pat of butter on the top and a sprinkle of salt. Cook at 170C for about 45 minutes.

While that’s cooking, boil the peeled and chunked parsnips until very soft.

Add an equal amount of chestnut puree.

Add at least a tablespoon of butter, and a touch of olive oil, then blend. I used a stick blender and the motor overheated, which is why I added olive oil. I think I need a new stick blender, as mine is very old!

Grate in 1/4 tsp fresh nutmeg.

Serve piping hot alongside the juicy, buttery poussin.

I served it right in the cast iron pan it was cooked in, because that way the mash got all the juices from the poussin as well. It’s a gorgeous mix! Steamed Brussels would go fabulously here as well, to cut the richness.

Poussin and Chestnut Mash ii

The mash would work very well let down with chicken or vegetable stock to make a smooth, silky soup, perhaps with some crispy smoked pancetta shards sprinkled on top.

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