Autumnal parsnip soup

Parsnips

Isn’t it weird how comfort food is so rarely good looking? Often it’s some sort of stewy one-pot meal of indeterminate ingredients or maybe big piles of mash splodged onto a plate covered in a brown gravy. Never the less, they do have their own rare beauty.

The glistening fat on a slow cooked lump of lamb, oily worm-like noodles, pieces of aubergine that look unsettlingly like withered body parts. And swampy sludges of pureed roots and vegetables like this. Just looking at the thick greeny-yellow soup gently steaming away kindles a warm glow in my navel.

I love to anticipate the first mouthful of soup, the thick liquid coating my taste buds with a melange of rich, savoury-sweet, slightly spicy flavours. The warmth that slowly suffuses my entire body as I slurp spoon after spoon with some thick crusty bread.

This is why it’s so important to make sure those flavours are there and robust. If you skimp on cooking times or decent stock, you’re left with an insipid soup. It’ll be left cooling rapidly in the bowl, a picture of pure disappointment. Because the beauty in this type of food is in the comforting tastes and textures.

Parsnip soup

Parsnip soup
Serves four with bread, cheese and pudding. keeps well in the fridge

The cooking times for the onion may seem excessively long, but cooking them over a very low heat for almost an hour brings out a deep sweetness married to a gentle but strong flavour that underpins the soup.

Good stock will build on that, giving you the base for a special, properly autumnal soup. Carrots and celery add to that base while the potatoes bring a creamy texture. Despite all these extras, the flavour will definitely be parsnippy. All earthy sweetness heightened and balanced by the spices.

4 large parsnips – peeled and roughly chopped
3 carrots – peeled and roughly chopped
1 stick celery – peeled and roughly chopped
2 onions – peeled and roughly chopped
2 potatoes – peeled and diced
A small bunch of parsley – chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
Half a tsp of cayenne pepper
1.5 litres of stock – I used half chicken, half Marigold no salt vegetable stock
100ml single cream
Small slice of butter
Olive oil

Put the butter and olive oil in a deep pan over the lowest heat possible. When the butter has melted add the onion, cover and leave to cook for about 45 minutes. Add the carrots and celery, stir, cover and cook for another 10 minutes.

Add the parsnip, potatoes, parsley and spices. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes, pour in the stock until it covers the vegetable, bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat and blend with the cream  into a thick paste, adding a little more stock if needed.

Season with salt and pepper, reheat and serve.

7 Responses to “Autumnal parsnip soup”

  1. Susan

    I like ugly but tasty food. Whoever said you eat with your eyes obviously doesn’t eat soup. Nice job, though, putting lipstick on that pig with the coriander leaf.

  2. The Grubworm

    @Thursday – really? I never liked parsnips when I was a kid, but now roast ones are about as good as it gets for me ;) Glad to hear you’d go for this though, that strong parsnip taste is somewhat mellowed by the rest of the ingredients.

    @Susan – Hah, not sure how much effect the lippy had ;D Mind you, i am partial to pigs head too – with or without lipstick.

  3. shuhan

    haha i know what you mean. a lot of my comfort foods look like sludge. sometimes they look rather presentable, but most times, hmmm. they are delicious and comforting though, and that’s what matters, what with the depressing weather ):

  4. The Grubworm

    @Shuhan – this is so true – like a bath of warm mud, unattractive, but luxurious and lovely… ;)

  5. catty

    Parsnip soup makes me happy! Asian style parsnip soup (or wintermelon, or any kind of whitish melonish thing we can get our hands on) is great too, where you dont blend it up but just have chunks of parsnip in the pot with some chicken or pork rib stock. YUM.

  6. The Grubworm

    @catty – glad to hear it . Right now (and I’m sure you remember what November in London is like) any sort of soup makes me happy. I do like the sound of your winter melon pork rib broth. I’ve never made stock with pork ribs before, i’ll have to check out a recipe and give it a go.

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