The prospect of parsnip soup may not have you volunteering to do the washing-up after supper tonight or have you hovering around the kitchen like there’s bacon frying but if you could just spare me five minutes of your time (I mean you have only just arrived) then I will try to sway you otherwise. To me this soup is Christmas in a bowl- creamy, warm and wholly satisfying (still with me?). What makes it unlike Christmas? Oh, perhaps the simple fact that it takes only one single solitary pot (just one!) barely any chopping and a measly thirty minutes to literally throw together (twenty of which can be spent sat on the sofa writing your list for Father Christmas). So, perhaps what I should of said was parsnip soup = Christmas in a bowl – all the work + almost immediate satisfaction = why you should make parsnip soup. Now. It’s a simple mathematical equation folks.
If that hasn’t convinced you, bare with on this little diversion. My mum cooked a mini-Christmas roast every Sunday supper that I can remember and although the roast chickens, roast potatoes and gravy were always memorable- it was the bread sauce that was so frequently forgotten by my mum to make that we have always squabbled over. Well, we were probably also fighting about so and so sitting in so and so’s seat and how long so and so had hogged the computer but mostly, it was about the bread sauce and how much was on so and so’s plate. And though, the days of weekly roasts have passed, come Christmas, the wintry smell of this gruel like substance, which costs pennies to make wafting through the house still has me hovering in the kitchen offering a few too many seasoning-checks.
For those unfamiliar, (poor deprived souls) bread sauce is made using milk (or cream if your feeling indulgent) infused with onion, bay leaves and cloves- a delicately spiced concoction to which breadcrumbs are added to thicken the milk and to finish a knob of butter is thrown into the mix for good measure. It’s served hot as a royal accompaniment to roast chicken or turkey and for members of the Helm family it’s one of life’s greatest pleasures. This parsnip soup takes the same concept of infusing the milk, only the parsnips replace the breadcrumbs as the thickening measure. It’s also pureed smooth, so if it’s the porridge-like texture that scares you about bread sauce then here’s one less off-putting factor (I’m fighting for you hard on this one!). The milk makes it creamy but not too rich and a touch of sweetness from the parnsips adds a whole new dimension to the mix. And if you’re still not sold go back to paragraph one- this is a one-pot Christmas, with all the timmings and you can still turn it into curry the day after.
This soup will thicken as it sits so you may want to add extra stock or milk if you’re not serving it immediately. This is great served with crispy sage leaves or strips of pancetta. If you still think it’s missing something, add a touch of curry powder.
Diet Facts: an intense state of relaxation and calm will follow
3 enormous parsnips (about 3 lbs), chopped into roughly 2.5cm/1 inch chunks
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 large onion, peeled
3 sprigs of sage (or 2 bay leaves)
1.5 pints/30 fl oz milk
1.5 pints/30 fl oz vegetable stock
3 Tbsp butter
1/ In a large pot place the parsnips and garlic cloves. Pierce the cloves into the onion half and add to the pot along with the sage sprigs, milk an stock. If the parsnips are not covered, add a bit more milk, stock or water. Bring up to the boil, cover and then turn down and allow to gently simmer for about 20 minutes or until very tender.
2/ Remove the onion and sage sprigs and puree the soup (you can make it really smooth or I like it with a few chunks) using an immersion blender or liquidiser, then return to the pot and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
3/ To serve, fry sage leaves in a little olive oil until crispy (although this is purely optional)