What to do with root vegetables

Beetroot, parsnip, turnip, celeriac - winter marks the start of a far more robust vegetable crop. We show you how to get the most out of your roots.

Root veg in roasting tin

Winter is no time for flimsy fruit and vegetables - it's November and our diets crave a more robust edge. Roots flourish in chilly months, growing safely nestled in underground soil, away from the elements that are blustering by upstairs. They're also packed with vitamins, which we need more than ever during the tough turn of the season. It's time to get creative with these earthy vegetables.


The taste of boiled carrots may hark back to childhood Sunday lunches, but this harsh cooking technique can render the root insipid. If you do prefer to boil them, try leaving them whole and slicing afterwards so they don't absorb too much water. You can then throw them into a salad with cumin, garlic and coriander. Alternatively, try them roasted with honey, grated into veggie burgers, blended into soup or made into that crowd-pleasing coffee morning staple - carrot cake.

pan of parsnipsParsnips

This sweet creamy root is a relative of the carrot, only a whiter shade of pale in appearance. Parsnips are typically roasted like potatoes, which preserves their nutritious goodness, or similarly they can be grated into hash browns or made into chips. They also work well in a creamy gratin and bulk out curries, casseroles and stews nicely.

Beetroot in gardenBeetroot

Once most commonly found crinkle cut and pickled (a speciality that most definitely still has a correct time and place), beetroot is now readily available fresh and in bundles. You can even get it in juice form, which takes a little getting used to but is worth it for the health benefits. Beetroot soup - or borscht - is a classic winter warmer in Eastern Europe. It's also great roasted simply and teamed with salty, creamy ingredients like goat's cheese or smoked fish.

Jerusalem artichoke

This knobbly white root is nothing like its more grandiose, heart-shaped and leafy namesake, the globe artichoke, but Jerusalem artichokes have the same distinct, earthy flavour. Scrub them clean and roast like potatoes- the finished product works really well with an aioli dip- blend into a creamy soup or serve in a gratin with smoked haddock.


The much-maligned turnip may not be as glamorous as its fellow roots, but it's a bargain vegetable with a delicate sweet flavour and creamy flesh. One of my favourite parts of a roast dinner is the carrot and turnip mash. Jazz it up with butternut squash and nutmeg. Sliced, it makes a lighter substitution for potatoes in dauphinoise, while baby turnips are great roasted with meat.


Not dissimilar to its relation the turnip, celeriac is also a good budget buy but is more peppery, like celery. It works really well with white fish, such as smoked haddock and cod, as well as rich pork belly. It can also be treated like a spud - served in a mash with bacon and cabbage, whipped into a creamy champ or whizzed into a soup.

Roasted root vegetable medleyRoot vegetable medleys

Unsurprisingly these vegetables work really well together as they have a similar cooking time and general finish. A tray of mixed roots makes a welcome accompaniment to roasts, stews and whole-baked fish - try adding honey, olive oil and plenty of garlic. You could also try adding a glug of cream and turning them into a gratin. Roots tend to be abundant, but you can use up any leftovers in a cake.

How do you like to use your roots? Let us know your suggestions below.