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.
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
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.