COOKING ROOT VEGETABLES
- A useful ingredient for almost everything
- Drain them well
- Oven roast for more concentrated flavor
- A root vegetable gratin is never wrong
- Add flavor!
You can do everything with root vegetables. Grate raw, steam, deep fry, braise, slow cook, fry, grill, bake or cook and process into a cream, purée or mash. Use your imagination!
A longer time in the pan
Many root vegetables, such as swedes and carrots take a bit longer to cook than potatoes. If you’re cooking them in the same casserole, put the root vegetables in a few minutes earlier or cut them into smaller pieces.
Boiling root vegetables
Fresh root vegetables only need rinsing and can be cooked whole – or at least in large pieces. A bit of fat in the pan heightens the flavor. The liquid shouldn’t completely cover the vegetables. Use a lid.
Don’t waste the water
After you have cooked root vegetables, save the water and use it as a simple stock for your casserole, sauce or soup.
How to blanch root vegetables
Blanching is a good idea for some root vegetables that have a short cooking time and/or can be eaten raw, e.g. carrots and black salsify. This method gives you a cooked root vegetable which has retained its flavor, crispiness, color and nutrients. Here’s how:
- Cut the root vegetable into small pieces, all the same size.
- Dip them into already boiling lightly salted water.
- Approximate times: Carrots; 4 minutes, swede 5 minutes.
- Pick them out – use a draining spoon – and dip immediately in cold water.
- Drain and serve.
How to steam root vegetables
Cooking in steam is gentler than using boiling water. The method works for root vegetables with a slightly shorter cooking time and/or that can be eaten raw. The result is a bit more bite and retaining more flavor, color and nutrients. There are special ovens for steaming. You can also invent your own using a big saucepan with a lid, a bit of boiling water in the bottom and a colander.
- Cut the root vegetables into small pieces, all the same size.
- Rough cooking times: Beetroot; 20 minutes, carrots; 8 minutes, swede; 8 minutes.
- Drain before serving.
How to braise root vegetables
Cut into pieces all the same size and brown in butter and/or oil. This cooking method draws out the flavors. Add a little liquid – for example water, stock, wine, beer – and reduce until the vegetables are done. The root vegetables should be “al dente”, soft but still with texture and bite.
Oven roast root vegetables
These vegetables can be boiled in all manner of ways, but the best thing in the end might be not to. Because root vegetables consist of a lot of water, the effect of more water can be to dilute the flavor unnecessarily. The opposite happens when you roast root vegetables in the oven. Most of the water evaporates and the flavors are concentrated and roasted.
Producing impressive root vegetables isn’t easier than this. Serve them as they are – with a little fat and salt – or mixed with a green salad. Feta or goat’s cheese is the perfect accompaniment, creamed or crumbled over the top.
- Peel root vegetables, cut them into equal sized pieces and spread them over an oiled baking sheet.
- Sprinkle with sea salt, drizzle with oil and stir.
- Place in the oven at 175°C if you want to bake them slowly and carefully, 200°C if you want a browned surface.
- Wait 45 minutes and test with a skewer. There should be a bit – but only a bit – of resistance.
Cooking root vegetables au gratin
The mild, fresh and sweet flavors in many root vegetables are a perfect combination with the fat and strong flavors of an – ideally – mature cheese. The basics:
- Slice or shred the root vegetables thinly.
- Make a basic layer in an ovenproof dish.
- Add salt, pepper and spices and grate a highly flavored cheese over the top.
- Add cream and/or butter.
- Put in the oven at a medium temperature and cover with foil or a lid if necessary.
- Estimate about 20 minutes at 190°C.
- Increase the temperature and remove the foil/lid to give the dish a golden brown, tasty topping.
The cheat’s way with a root vegetable gratin
If you simmer peeled, sliced root vegetables until soft in milk, cream and butter (leek, garlic and thyme are good here too) on the hob, they’ll only need 15 minutes in the oven before they’re done.
Potatoes in a root vegetable gratin
Remember that many root vegetables are sweet, sweeter than potatoes, for example. For this reason it can be a good idea to mix in potatoes to get the right balance of salt and liquid.
Stuff and top with cheese
Many chefs who know their home cooking think the old-fashioned methods are due a renaissance. Root vegetables that are available in winter work well stuffed and topped with cheese, traditional style. Fat and salt are two good ways of upping the flavor.
There’s a lot we can learn from the better end of 1970s food.
– Per Renhed, F12 and other restaurants
Root vegetables as raw food
Carrots, swede and beetroot are great grated raw or cut into really thin slices, as long as they’re helped along the way by lemon/lime/orange, salt, chili or a good olive oil.
Deep fry your root vegetables
Just like potatoes, root vegetables, especially swede and sweet potatoes, can be deep fried.
Grilling root vegetables
- If you’re adding flavor and a crisp surface to root vegetables on the grill, you need to pre-cook them.
- Fold them into a foil parcel with butter/olive oil and spices.
- Grilling straight on the coals is attractive, but can cause the outside to dry out.
Root vegetables go well with
Most root vegetables have a strong flavor of their own and work well with salt, butter, meat and umami flavors such as anchovies and sardines. Herbs and garlic are other obvious partners, and a sting from chili and ginger works really well with carrots, parsnips and swedes. Sometimes the flavor can be a bit insipid, but a dash of acidity from lemon, lime or orange helps.