23/11/2011

Harry Eastwood’s Parsnip Vanilla Fudge

Yes, yes, I know. Parsnip. That’s right, parsnip. That faux potato that lurks in a tray of roasties at Christmas, looking all golden and beguiling until you bite into it and realise…NOT A POTATO.  I used to hate them with a passion. The only reason I tolerated them as a child was because I found the name funny. (Dad was a barber, therefore pa-snips made me laugh. I was 4, so sue me.)

Many, many years later my sister did buttered baked parsnips, cooked wrapped in foil, and much to my surprise I liked them. From then on, it seems that I couldn't get enough of them. It’s an odd thing, I know, but there we are. Anyway, since then, I have developed a fondness for the old tuber. Husband still calls them stealth potatoes, and wants nothing to do with them, so they’re all for me and Simon, which is fine.

I saw this recipe for fudge in Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache and thought “Oooh, fudge. What a faff though. Nah.” and passed it by. Then I saw it again this week, realised I had all the ingredients, and a LOT of free time (gissajob someone?) and thought “Might as well!”

So I did.

I will not say that it was straightforward, because I have never made fudge before and I was terribly scared of it ALL GOING WRONG so I was probably too timid with the heat the first time around, and it didn’t set properly. Tasted bloody lovely mind, but was like a very thick, sugary caramel sauce. That stuck to the non-stick parchment.

Eventually I scraped it OFF the non-stick (ha) parchment, back into a pan, and recooked it.

And here it is.

Parsnip Fudge

It has a sugared crunch to it. but then it melts in the mouth beautifully. Yes of course it does taste of parsnip – once you know that’s what it is – but if you don’t, as my friend Cat didn’t, it has a fruit overtone. I am, of course, now pondering variations, such as sweet potato and coconut, or butternut squash and cinnamon. Purple sweet potatoes would be fabulous!

Here be the ingredients:

200g peeled and cubed parsnip

450g caster sugar (I had half white and half golden)

30g unsalted butter

335g condensed milk

1/2 tsp salt (which OF COURSE I forgot)

1 vanilla pod, split lengthways and seeds scraped out (nowhere had one, so I used 1 tsp extract)

Equipment:

1 22cm square x 5cm deep brownie tin

A blender

A heatproof rubber spatula

A timer

An hour of peace and quiet (Harry’s words)

Line the base of the tin with baking parchment. Grease the parchment lightly. (I lined the whole thing because I was not in a trusting mood)

Put the cubed parsnip in a medium sized pan, cover with water, bring to the boil and boil for 8 minutes or until the parsnips are totally cooked through.

Drain, then whizz to a very fine paste in a blender. I used a stick blender because, well, that’s what I’ve got. Make sure there are no lumps. Unless you wants lumps of parsnip in your fudge of course.

Put all of the ingredients, including the parsnip puree, into a small saucepan (I only had a large one left) and put over a low heat.

HE’s words: “Stir with the spatula until the sugar and milk are well combined. Warm gently on the lowest possible heat until the sugar has completely dissolved and there are no gritty  sand grains at the bottom or on the sides of the pan at all. This can take up to 15 minutes and it’s no good trying to rush it.

Stir at 1-2 minute intervals, just to make sure that the butter is melting and that everything is mixed in well. This stage is crucial to the success of the recipe and must be given the time it needs to get it there. Behaving aggressively with the mixture and forcing it to a premature boil will crystallise it – this is a pretty word for very ugly, bad-tempered, tantrum fudge.”

Once all the sugar grains have dissolved, turn up the heat a fraction (and I really do mean the minutest amount) and get ready to stir gently for the next 25 minutes exactly. (A timer is a really good idea here.)

Now I am happy to admit that whilst I did do this, I think that my heat was waaaay lower than Harry’s might have been because what follows here, did not happen. I’m writing it here though because it may well do for you, and also she describes what to do/what happens beautifully. I am forever grateful for that.

HE’s words: Make sure that you move your spatula continually over the entire base of the pan as well as into the corners in a patient but thorough motion. You can expect to hear a slight sizzle, which is where the sugar mixture has marginally overheated; it is perfectly healthy. If, on the other hand, you hear a big hiss (the likes of which you might expect from tugging hard on the tail of a cat), it’s definitely time to turn down the heat and be ashamed of your hastiness.

The sorts of sounds you should expect to hear when making fudge include; a soft thud from the large bubbles bursting lethargically at the surface, and the distant hissing song of the lazy fudge on the bottom of the pan when your spatula turns in its sleep.

The contents of the pan will gradually get more suntanned and you will know that you have arrived at your destination (in the glass elevator) when you reach a blonde butterscotch colour after the time is up. The texture at this point should be thick but not heavy.

At this stage, remove the fudge from the heat and beat for three minutes exactly, which will thicken the fudge and start to set it. If you find that it is becoming too heavy before the whole three minutes is up, stop beating – this means that it is ready.

Pour the fudge carefully into the prepared tin. It will be setting very fast at this stage, so it’s a good idea to have a palette knife to hand as well as the spatula. Pat the surface of the fudge down with the rubber end of the spatula to smooth the top. Set it aside for at least an hour to cool. Cut into 5cm squares and serve, or store in an airtight tin for up to 2 weeks.

Now. Mine did not set. Well, it set to a very thick, very sticky paste which was nigh on impossible to get off the paper, but I did it in the end with a certain amount of scraping with a spoon and a butter knife.

It went back into the pan, I gently warmed it to melt it down again, then brought it to a bubbling simmer until it darkened even more, (the narrative in my head at that point was “Set, ye bugger, burned bits can just be called toffee”) then poured it back into the re-prepped pan, and left it alone for a good few hours. It was sticky, and fudgy, but it did come free of the paper willingly.

I left it out overnight which dried it out a bit, and made it far easier to cut into pieces.

I can safely say that I will make this again, and that it is Very, Very, Tasty.

Thank you Harry!