Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The 21st Century Housewife's© Christmas Parsnip Soup

There is nothing like coming home from a hard day's Christmas shopping knowing that you have something lovely and warming for supper in the fridge. Parsnips are plentiful this time of year and combined with the nutmeg, they just taste of Christmas. This soup is so easy to make, and although it takes a bit of time, very little of that is labour intensive. It is wonderful served with crusty bread or rolls, or with your favourite sandwich. It travels well in a thermos too, if you want to take it along for lunch on the go!

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 – 7 medium parsnips, peeled and cut in fairly small chunks
1 litre chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground if possible
125 to 250 ml milk or single cream
paprika or a swirl of cream for garnish

Heat the butter and oil in a saucepan. Add the onion and cook over low heat until softened. The longer you can cook the onion the more flavourful it will be, provided you keep the heat very low. If you have time, you can leave them cooking away for about fifteen or twenty minutes; if you are in a rush, just make sure that they are nicely softened.

Stir in the parsnips, making sure to coat them with the melted butter and oil. Turn the heat down as low as you can and put the lid on the saucepan. Set the timer for ten minutes and let the parsnips sweat in their buttery coating. You can peek, in fact I encourage you to, just to be sure they are not sticking. Turn the heat back a bit if they do start to stick a little. Let them sweat away in the pan, giving them the occasional stir.

After ten minutes, remove the lid and add the stock. Bring to the boil. Now turn back the heat. Stir in the nutmeg and simmer gently for about 20 to 30 minutes until the parsnips are very, very soft. Take the soup off the heat.

Cool for a few minutes so the liquid and parsnips are not scalding hot. When the soup has cooled a bit, puree it in the blender in batches. If I am going to serve it later, this is the point at which I allow the soup to cool right down and then refrigerate it as I prefer to add the milk or cream just before serving.

If you are serving the soup right away, however, wash out the pan and dry it, and put the soup back in. (If you made the soup earlier and you now want to serve it, remove it from the fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for about twenty minutes -so it isn't icy cold - before putting it in a pan on the stove. ) Place the pan over a low heat and begin to stir in the milk or cream. Now the amount of milk you add depends on the thickness of the liquidised parsnips and stock you have in your pan, and indeed whether you have chosen to use milk or cream (which is slightly thicker). Just take it slowly as there is nothing worse than thin soup. Remember, you can always add more milk or cream, but you can’t take it away! Heat until piping hot. Carefully taste the soup, adding a little bit more nutmeg if you feel it needs it.

Serve in bowls or mugs with a sprinkling of paprika or swirl of cream for garnish.