I have learned to my peril that if there’s an interesting ingredient, fruit or vegetable at the market, buy it immediately as it is impossible to find the same again. For instance, the abundant variety of oranges that were piled high on Wednesday had disappeared by Saturday but, it was during this orange hunt, skirting about the fruit and vegetable stalls, that I came across a tiny, unusual root vegetable: cerfeuil tubereux in French, root chervil. As always, the stallholder was a wealth of information and recommended sautéing, perhaps with the addition of a little garlic and that this vegetable teamed very well with parsnips, a winning combination at Christmas time.


Categorised under a charming description, ‘légumes oubliés, forgotten vegetables’, this tiny gourmet tuber was first introduced into France in 1846 though not cultivated commercially until the late 1980’s. Harvested in July, root chervil is stored for several months to allow starches and flavour to develop, becoming edible at the end of autumn, which is likely to explain its rarity so do seize an opportunity to try some. Size varies and as my selection was particularly tiny, decided to scrub them under cold running water rather than attempt to peel, which preserves flavour too. Cooked, the texture is similar to a fluffy baked potato whilst its delicate, aromatic flavour is difficult to explain but I think, somewhere between a sweet carrot and parsnip.


Erring on opinion that less is more, simply boil for 5 minutes, drain and cool before patting dry with absorbent kitchen paper. Next, melt a small knob of salted butter in a heavy based frying pan, gently heating for a few minutes until just beginning to brown; browning butter improves flavour and gives a wonderful nutty aroma. Add the root chervil and keep moving it around in the pan until piping hot and beginning to colour and being careful that the butter doesn’t burn; serve immediately.


Think along the lines of potato or Jerusalem artichoke; a successful combination was with wedges of sweet, dumpy Romeo carrots that after blanching for 8 minutes are added to the brown butter along with the root chervil.