Love them or hate them, you can’t have a holiday dinner without root vegetables. I’m not complaining — they’re as versatile as it gets. Whether you use them in raw applications, cooked applications, in pickles or in cakes, you’re sure to find a variation that will satisfy your appetite, and your creativity.
1. Stuff them
If you know that there will be vegetarians or vegans at your holidaytable, whip up some stuffed root vegetables as a hearty, satisfying main dish. Essentially, you will want to double cook whatever root veg you are using in this application (pick medium to large size sweet potatoes, turnips or celery root, as you want something you can hollow out).
Halve them and roast until tender, before scooping out the centres to create a bowl. Fill them with a mix of wild mushrooms, grains such as wild rice or barley, pulses like lentils or chickpeas, and other vegetables of your choice. Bake again until golden. You might even ditch the turkey to enjoy one yourself.
2. Shred them
Who doesn’t love crispy, fried potato pancakes? Try a twist on a classic by using root vegetables instead. Shred a melange of sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets, and mix them with a bit of flour and egg to bind them together. Pat them into pancakes and fry in plenty of oil, until they are golden brown and delicious. If you want to mellow out the sweetness of the root vegetables, you can use equal parts root veg and potatoes for a more neutral flavour.
3. Go sweet
Although they could be a side dish on your Christmas dinner table, root vegetables are an equally fitting component of a holiday dessert. Carrot cake is an ideal end to a festive dinner because of all of the warming spices (think cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves) it contains, but carrots aren’t your only option.
Try replacing them with shredded sweet potatoes or parsnips instead for that same moisture, but added je ne sais quoi. Alternately, you can replace some of the fat in your favourite Christmas baking recipes with pureed sweet potatoes or carrots. No one needs to know that the secret ingredient in your plum pudding is a vegetable! How about a scoop of sweet potato ice cream on top? Now we’re talking!
4. Purée away
Mashed potatoes and gravy may be a staple on virtually all holiday dinner tables, but I will give them a pass any day for pureed root vegetables. Cook celery root until tender, and puree with plenty of good, but mild, olive oil for a healthier, more flavourful take on the starchy favourite. You can also blend up a mix of sweeter root vegetables like carrots, sweet potato, parsnips, and turnips to make sure everyone gets their veggies (without even realizing it’s good for them!).
Keep in mind, if you don’t want to eat your root vegetable purée as is, you can thin it out with vegetable stock, poultry stock or coconut milk, to make a creamy soup to serve as a starter or side.
5. Don’t be shy with spices
Root vegetables are typically hearty and neutral in flavour, so they are a great canvas for experimenting with spices and spice blends. They can be elevated by the addition of whatever myriad of spices you are eager to experiment with. Try adding dukkah, a Middle Eastern blend of crushed nuts, sesame seeds, coriander and cumin, to caramelized or roasted root vegetables for a salty, savoury kick.
6. Pickle them
No Christmas dinner table is complete without an assortment of homemade pickles. Think outside the realm of traditional cucumber pickles, and swap them out for root vegetables instead. Baby carrots are great simply pickled whole and raw with lots of fragrant coriander seeds. With hearty root veggies (ones you probably wouldn’t want to eat raw), be sure to boil them until tender prior to soaking them in your pickle brine. Pickled beets are always a fan favourite, but don’t shy away from pickling daikon radish, baby turnips or parsnips.
See here for a recipe for Roasted Root Vegetables with Labneh and Dukkah