Parsnip, thyme and nutmeg bake with braised beef

Serves 4-6

This dish is something different from the usual roast veg and looks stunning. If you have vegetarians at Christmas, try the bake on its own, using vegetable stock.

For the beef

4 tbsp vegetable oil
600g-800g/21oz-28oz beef, topside or shoulder
2 carrots, peeled and quartered
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
2 stalks celery, halved
1 leek, white part only, halved
1 bulb garlic, halved lengthways
3 tbsp tomato purée
300ml/10fl oz red wine
1/2 bunch thyme
1 tsp white peppercorns
3 bay leaves
3 tbsp soya sauce
1/2 tsp table salt
1 litre/13/4 pints beef or chicken stock (beef stock will give you a richer end-product)

For the bake

100ml/31/2fl oz white wine
1/2 bunch thyme
2 bay leaves
150ml/5fl oz cream (single or double)
350ml/12fl oz milk
1 tbsp honey
2 nutmeg
1/2 tsp table salt
4 large parsnips (or 6 small parsnips), peeled

Heat a large saucepan with three tablespoons of the vegetable oil. When hot, season the beef all over, then brown evenly. When browned, remove and set aside, add the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil to the same saucepan and brown the carrots, onion, celery, leek and garlic. When a deep-golden colour, add the tomato purée and mix well. Add the wine and simmer until it has reduced to a third. Add the beef, herbs, peppercorns, soya sauce, stock and salt to the pan and cover. Simmer very gently for 3-4 hours until tender. Remove the beef from the pan and cover. Strain the sauce into a clean pan and bring to the boil. Reduce until a sticky glaze. Cut the beef into 4-6 portions and place into a pan with the glaze to reheat.

For the bake, preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F/Gas4. Place the wine, thyme and bay leaves into a medium-sized saucepan over a moderate heat. Reduce by two-thirds then add the cream, milk, honey, nutmeg and salt. Simmer very gently until the liquid has reduced by a quarter. Slice the parsnips thinly, lengthways, into strips. Layer with the milk mixture in a small loaf tin or terrine mould, pressing the parsnips down. Place on a baking tray or roasting dish and bake for 25-30 minutes until it has browned on top and a knife goes easily through the centre. Serve with the braised beef and a glass of full-bodied red wine.

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