Friday, December 11, 2015

Tian of Winterroots

by Sheila Connolly

No, this is not a character from a George R. R. Martin book (or at least, if it is I haven’t met her yet). This is a vegetable side dish that I encountered in, yes, Ireland. But it’s French in origin, and it’s a handy kind of dish to keep in your back pocket to go with chicken or meat (no, not literally in your pocket). In my case it accompanied some really nice lamb chops. at the West Cork Hotel.

One online foodie dictionary gave this description: 

A French specialty made from a composite of ingredients that are cooked or baked.

Originally, a tian referred to a Provençal-style bake of mixed vegetables, roasted in a
gratin style. The word can also be used to describe any type of casserole-style course, from a braised vegetable stew to a layered dessert.

The term was derived from the clay cooking vessel that is to prepare the dish.

I’d never heard the term tian, and when it arrived on my plate at the restaurant I quailed: there were beets. I do not like beets. I spent most of my childhood gagging over beets. Nowadays I tolerate them like a grown-up when I have no choice (I’ve even eaten them in a sandwich), but seldom if ever have I eaten them by choice, much less prepared them.

This dish may have changed my mind. I’ve always found beets cloyingly sweet, but in this case, the sugar in the beets manages to caramelize itself and create a lovely brown finish to the vegetables.

What I was served was about as simple as it could be: cubed beets and carrots. I ate all of it. Lots of recipes call for more and different vegetables, often potatoes or tomatoes or zucchini and onions, and occasionally garlic. I decided to stick to a basic version, with the beets (fresh, not canned!), carrots, and some parsnips for contrast (they taste a lot like carrots but they’re a different color). 

Tian of Winterroots, aka Roasted Root Vegetables

2 large carrots (in Ireland, that’s really large!), peeled and cut into half-inch cubes

Okay, it's a trick photo: the birds are quail. But
the carrots are big!

Here are the real ingredients
1 large or 2 small parsnips, peeled and cut into half-inch cubes

2 small (young) beets, peeled and cut into half-inch cubes

Olive oil

Salt and pepper


Parboil the cubed carrots and parsnips in salted water until they soften slightly (less than five minutes--do not let them cook through). Drain and let dry a bit.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, toss all the vegetables in olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.

In a roasting pan (use two if you need to) spread the vegetable pieces in a single layer—you don’t want the bits to be crowded. Roast until they are lightly browned and tender, about 40 minutes. You can stir them with a spatula to make sure they aren’t sticking to the pan and they cook evenly. 

Yes, they shrink when they cook

Remove from the oven and toss with additional olive oil if the bits look dry. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

The roasting enhances the flavor of the vegetables and turns them to a lovely brown. Yes, they may look charred, but that’s the caramelization. The vegetables are still soft and slightly sweet. Don’t overcook them or they will shrivel up and look sad. 

Feel free to experiment with different vegetables (use your judgment: snow peas and broccoli are not going to roast well!), and add herbs (fresh if you have them) if you like.

You’ll notice that all the work (the chopping) goes on at the beginning, which leaves you free to deal with the rest of your meal while the vegetables roast. Note: this recipe made enough for two or three reasonable servings, so if you’re serving a crowd, you’ll be doing a lot of chopping. But you can do that ahead, or recruit a crowd to help.

I sneaked in a new ebook! Watch for the Dead is the fourth book in the Relatively Dead series, released this week. This one's set on Cape Cod. Here's a brief description:

Looking to take a break from busy home renovations, Abby and boyfriend Ned Newhall jump at the chance to vacation on Cape Cod. Not only do they plan to get away from the dust and grime, but since Abby has no known ancestors in the area, the trip promises to be free of the unsettling ghostly appearances that have darkened her recent days.

Dreams of a relaxing vacation are soon dashed, however, when a storm blows in and brings with it a scene from the past more disturbing than any Abby has ever experienced. The long-dead woman who appears to Abby is someone she’s met before, but this time her presence defies any explanation at all.

Determined to unravel the mystery of the woman’s recurring appearances, Abby follows a trail of family history and upheaval that spans generations and may yield the biggest revelation of all, not just about Abby’s ancestors but about her living relatives as well.
It's available in multiple e-formats. If the holidays get to be too much for you, you can escape for a quick vacation on the Cape--with a ghost!


  1. LOL! I thought the birds were extra small next to the jumbo size carrots! I felt better when I read the birds were actually quail. :)

  2. I am still a bit concerned about those carrots!!! My goodness, they are enormous. I love reading your recipes. I feel like you are in my kitchen talking to me...maybe you need your own cooking show!!!! What herbs would go nicely with beets???

    1. I know--they're almost scary. But they're still sweet and not too hard. Or maybe they're just fresher than we're used to.

  3. I usually roast a mix of sweet potato, parsnip, and beets. I toss them with olive oil, salt, and a little bit of brown sugar.

    1. I had the same gag reflex to sweet potatoes in my youth (I'll admit I didn't like a lot of foods then, and they couldn't be mixed on the plate, and they had to be eaten in the right get the picture), but I'm willing to try.

  4. Roasting veggies is magical. Everything tastes better.
    Broccoli roasts well.

    1. Now that I've discovered the recipe, I may try a lot of different veggies--it's so easy! (Except the chopping part.)

  5. I love this recipe, Sheila! Will be trying soon. Thank you!



  6. Can't wait to read your new book. Love roasted veggies.

  7. The book sounds very interesting!

  8. I have been interested in roasted vegetables and here it is perfect recipe...thanks for the giveaway...