'Solaet' (sallad) of parsnips

A Dutch recipe from the sixteenth century

A  greengrocery from the 18th century, with on the left carrots and parsnipsThis recipe for parsnips is taken from a Dutch cookbook from the middle of the sixteenth century. It is a translation from a recipe by the Italian humanist Platina (Bartolomeo Sacchi) in De honeste voluptate (published in 1474, edition).
The Dutch cookbook bears the title Eenen nyeuwen coock boeck (A new cookbook). It is written by Gheeraert Vorselman. The first impression dates from 1556, the book was reprinted in 1560 and 1599. The reprint from 1560 is available in a modern edition.
Gheeraert Vorselman was a physician. He was born in the village Zundert, in what is now called Noord-Brabant. He made use of several sources in writing his cookbook. One of these sources is the first part of a convolute which now resides in the Royal Academy for Dutch Language and Literature in Gent (Belgium)  KANTL Gent 15, and Een notabel boecxken van cokerijen, edited by Thomas vander Noot in 1514 (edition). However, the most important source for his 'new cookbook' was De honeste voluptate.
Although being a physian, Vorselman left out most of the dietetical information Platina interspersed in his recipes. This recipe for parsnip salad was treated likewise by Vorselman. Platina distinguished two varieties of roots: the white parsnip (Pastinaca alba) which grows best in uncultivated soil, and the red carrot (Cariota rubea), a typical garden vegetable. Parsnip and carrot are hard to digest, according to Platina (De honeste voluptate IV.16, edition p.226/227).

An excellent winter vegetable

Parsnip is a typical winter vegetable. Before the potato was introduced in Europe this farinaceous root was standard winter fare for many people. Parsnips do not have to be harvested in autumn, they can stay in the ground until needed. The roots are not harmed by the winter frost, they even taste better. You can find and eat fresh parsnips even at the end of winter and early spring. This makes them a typical lenten vegetable.
Parsnip is sweet and starchy. In medieval Europe they were used in sweet dishes by those people who could not afford to buy expensive sugar.

In the recipe below the lettuce is also boiled. According to medieval health theories the eating of unprocessed vegetables was to be avoided. In our time we cherish different views on this subject. I prefer to leave the lettuce as it is (of course you have to wash and clean the lettuce!) and serve the fried parsnips with the uncooked lettuce.
The recipe suggests to remove the hard wooden core of the root. However, if the parsnip is sliced thinly before boiling, this is not necessary.

The original recipe
The original text of the recipe, taken from Gheeraert Vorselman, Eenen nyeuwen coock boeck (edition recipe I.17, p.109).

Solaet van pastinaken. Neemt pastinaken ende siet se wel, ende ghiet dat water uut; dan neemt versch water ende siet se in dat water weder met lactouwen; dan doet se in een schotel ende doet er op sout, azijn, corianden ende peperpoeder. Men mach se ooc frijten in boter oft oly na dat se eens ghesoden is ende binnen het hert uut ghedaen ende in die bloemen ghewentelt.Sallad of parsnips. Take parsnips and boil them well, and pour off the water. Then take fresh waterand boil them in this water with lettuce. Then put them in a dish, and add salt, vinegar, coriander and ground pepper. You can also fry them in butter or oil once they have been cooked and core has been removed, and [the slices] have been covered with flour.

Modern adaptation of the recipe
For 2 to 3 persons.

Parsnip Sallad.Ingredients
1 parsnip
150 gram (3 cups) lettuce (lamb's lettuce)
salt, black pepper
White wine vinegar to taste
1/2 Tbsp. coriander seeds, lightly toasted and coarsly crushed
olive oil

Preparation in advance
Shrub the parsnip, scrape it (like carrots), wash it again, and cut into thin slices. Blanch these slices three minutes in salted water. Drain, let cool, and pat them dry.
Wash and clean the lettuce.

Sprinkle the slices of parsnip with salt, cover them with flour. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the slices on both sides to a golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper, let cool to room temperature.
Prepare the lettuce with vinegar, salt and pepper, and half of the crushed coriander seeds.

To serve
Put the lettuce on a large shallow dish. Arrange the fried slices of parsnip on the lattuce. Sprinkle the remaining coriander seeds over the sallad.
As an alternative arrange the sallad on individual plates.

All descriptions of ingredients

The editions below are in my possession. Links refer to available editions.
All books mentioned on this site (with short reviews)

  • The first volume of the convolute KANTL Gent 15: W.L. Braekman, "Een belangrijke middelnederlandse bron voor Vorselmans’ Nyeuwen Coock Boeck (1560)". In: Volkskunde 87 (1986) pp. 1-24.
  • M.E. Milham, Platina: On Right Pleasure and Good Health (Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, V. 168) . Critical edition and translation of De Honesta Voluptate et Valetudine . Med.&Ren. Texts & Studies vol.168, Tempe/Arizona, 1998
  • Gheeraert Vorselman, Eenen nyeuwen coock boeck. Edition E. Cockx-Indestege, Eenen nyeuwen coock boeck. Kookboek samengesteld door Gheeraert Vorselman en gedrukt te Antwerpen in 1560. Wiesbaden, 1971
  • R. Jansen-Sieben and M. van der Molen Willebrands, Een notabel boecxken van cokeryen. Het eerste gedrukte Nederlandstalige kookboek circa 1514 uitgegeven te Brussel door Thomas Vander Noot. Bezorgd en van commentaar voorzien door [...]. Amsterdam, 1994. (Internet edition)