Christmas parsnip loaf

This loaf is a perfect Christmas dish containing all the typical seasonal ingredients: cranberries, chestnuts, sage and parsnips.  It’s easy to prepare the day before, just cover and chill until ready for the final stage of baking.  I use ground almonds as a gluten free option to breadcrumbs although the latter probably helps hold it together better, so your choice here!


For a 900g loaf tin to serve 4 generous portions:

3 tbsp butter
3 red onions, chopped
8-10 sage leaves, torn, plus 8 extra leaves for the sage butter
220g packet of cooked chestnuts
130g walnuts or pecans
100g ground almonds (or 100g breadcrumbs)
1/2 tsp allspice or mace
2 beaten eggs
600g cranberries
120g caster sugar
550g parsnips, preferably long and thin


Melt 1 tbsp butter in a large pan and cook the chopped onion over a gentle heat for about 15 minutes until soft.  Stir in the chopped sage until it slightly crisps, then transfer to a large mixing bowl.

The nuts:

Pulse the chestnuts in a food processor until chopped  but you want to have some texture, not nut dust!  Repeat with the walnuts/pecans.  Transfer these to the same mixing bowl then add the ground almonds (or breadcrumbs), allspice or mace, the beaten eggs, some sea salt and freshly ground pepper.  Mix well.

The cranberries:

Put the cranberries and caster sugar into a pot and simmer for about 10 minutes over a medium to high heat.  As the sugar melts and cranberries pop it will become thicker and eventually sticky. Set aside to cool.

Grease your 900g loaf tin. Line it with baking paper, covering the base and ends.

The parsnips:

Halve lengthways then boil for about 3 mins and drain well.  Cut and layer the parsnips so they fit snugly (see ‘layering’ section next).  Any left over parsnip pieces can be chopped and added to any empty spaces, or roughly chopped into the onion/nut mixture.

Layering your loaf:

Heat the oven to 160 C (320F).  After a bottom layer of snug soldier parsnips, add 1/3 of the onion/nut mixture and press down firmly.
Next, add 1/3 of the sticky cranberry mix, leaving a small gap round the edges to stop it leaking when cooking, and thus sticking to the baking paper.
Repeat the last of the parsnips followed by another 1/3 of nut mix and another 1/3 of cranberry.  Finish with the final nut mix, pressing down firmly again.  Put the final 1/3 of sticky cranberry into a pan, adding some water and heating until it is more like a sauce.

Cover with baking paper then bake in the 160C oven for one hour.  Remove the baking paper from the top for the last 10 minutes to slightly crisp.

To serve:

Melt the remaining 2 tbsp butter in a small pan and sizzle those sage leaves you put aside at the start, until they crisp.

Using a rounded knife gently loosen the sides of the baked loaf and turn out onto a plate.  Drizzle with the sage butter and leaves and serve in slices, with extra cranberry sauce on the side.

Have a great Christmas!