This vegetarian recipe is packed with lots of different textures and flavours, making it a perfect dish for a cold autumn evening.
- 150g unsalted butter, plus an extra knob and a little to grease
- 150-200g parsnips, trimmed and cut lengthways into 1.5cm slices
- 50g pecan halves or pieces
- 50g blanched almonds
- 30g pine nuts
- 2 large leeks, sliced
- 200g button or chestnut mushrooms, quite finely chopped
- 200g chestnuts, roughly chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 fresh rosemary sprigs, finely chopped, plus extra to garnish
- ½ small bunch fresh sage, finely chopped
- 4 fresh thyme sprigs, finely chopped
- Small bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 100g fresh breadcrumbs
- 50g plain flour
- 100ml maple syrup
- 200g feta cheese
- 3 large free-range eggs
Heat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/ Gas 5. Lightly butter a deep 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin and line the base with baking paper. Steam the parsnips for 5-8 minutes to take off the raw edge (they don’t need to be cooked all the way). Put in a colander and leave to dry.
Spread the pecans and almonds in an even layer on a baking sheet, then toast for 5 minutes in the oven. Add the pine nuts and toast for 3-5 minutes more until golden. Cool, roughly chop and set aside. Melt 75g butter in a large frying pan on a low heat. Add the leeks, season and cook gently, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes until soft and sweet, then transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Add the remaining 75g butter to the frying pan and turn up the heat to high. When the butter is hot and foaming, add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, then cook for 5-7 minutes, tossing every now and then, until golden brown. Add the chestnuts and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring so the garlic doesn’t brown. Add the mixture to the leeks, along with the chopped nuts, chopped herbs, breadcrumbs and flour. Taste and season.
Wipe out the frying pan and put it over a medium-high heat. Add the maple syrup and a knob of butter. When bubbling, add the parsnip pieces, without crowding the pan. Fry for 3-4 minutes until golden, then flip over and cook for another couple of minutes on the other side. Remove with a fish slice, leaving the syrup in the pan, and put the parsnips, flat-side down and spaced out a little, into the cake tin. Leave the buttery maple syrup in the pan.
Crumble the feta into the nut mixture, then crack in the eggs and mix well to combine. Spoon the mixture on top of the parsnips and press down lightly. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, covering the top with foil if it browns too much (a little colour is good). Let it cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes, then invert carefully onto a flat plate and peel off the baking paper.
Reheat the syrup in the pan, season with sea salt and add a few rosemary sprigs. Brush the caramel over the top of the loaf, decorate with the rosemary leaves and serve with a sharply dressed bitter salad.