Monday, 13 August 2012

Curried parsnip soup

I'm always on the look out for an interesting new dish.  I'm just not satisfied with the same old flavour combinations year in, year out.  This soup came about a few years ago while I was cooking for a local cafe. I had to cook a different soup every single day throughout the winter, quite a challenge, especially when using organic and seasonal produce. I’d start most days staring at the same produce and have to come up
with a new soup recipe to interest our regular customers, some of whom ate our soups five days a week! This situation forced me to explore different combinations, produce-wise and herb and spice-wise. Some how this recipe unfolded one cool cosy winter lunchtime and it was a serious hit.  

Parsnips whisper winter to me. I didn't really discover them until I lived in England for a year. On those cold wintry English days and nights, parsnips brought comfort and warmth, like a log fire or thick woollen hat and gloves. One of my favourite parsnip dishes back then was to roast them in the oven, doused with vanilla paste, spicy tabasco sauce, olive oil and salt.  I whisked those ingredients in a jar or mug and drizzled it over the diced or wildly cut julienne style lengths, leaving the parsnip tails to curl and crisp up. So good. The spiciness of the tabasco with the sweetness of the cooked parsnips and the woody perfume of the vanilla is such a perfect combination. Yum!

This soup has a depth of flavour and a different trio of flavours going on like the above roasted parsnip recipe. It has the earthy bitter flavours of the curry spices as well as the slight tanginess with the lemon and a neat little bite from the Tabasco.  That gives you the trio of bitter, sour and spicy, three of the five main flavours. Parsnips themselves have quite a complex and unique flavour ; cooked parsnips taste sweet and aromatic, and slightly earthy as  you would expect from a root vegetable. They have a fragrant flavour that reminds me of parsley or even eucalyptus. And they have a soft texture which is almost creamy when cooked to perfection. The colour of this soup is a bright yellow which is both happy and warming -  a soup to cheer up a cold winter’s day. Serve it with warm toasted Turkish bread, with a drizzle of good olive oil.   

Makes = 4-6 bowls
500gm parsnip, roughly cut
200gm potato, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 small clove garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbs madras curry powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 dsp good salt or season to your taste
1/2 tsp freshly cracked pepper
juice of a lemon (right at the end)
splash of tabasco *optional
400ml tin coconut milk or cream
1 1/4 litres filtered water

Put your parsnip and diced potato in to boiling water and allow it to cook for 10 minutes. Then add the onions, garlic, curry spices and seeds, and pepper and simmer.  Cook until tender and soft. Then remove the soup from the heat, add the coconut milk and blend with a stick blender. You can add more water to thin the soup to your liking (I like my soups thin with a little body but not watery thin). You may need to add a pinch more salt if you do this. Taste, and you will know.

Serve with warm fresh bread or chunky pieces of Turkish or sour dough toast drizzled with olive oil. Yum.

Please note: if you don't have a stick blender and think about using your normal blender. BE CAREFUL! Heat creates a pressure and can explode the lid off your blender covering you and your kitchen in HOT soup. Try hand mashing instead, much safer.

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