Spicy Parsnip Soup

With the cold weather finally arriving in the South-East this week, the draw of a steaming bowl of soup is a strong one. Added to this is the fact that two TV programmes I watched last week extolled the virtues of soup in a healthy diet; citing evidence that soup fills you up more successfully than a conventional meal with the same ingredients.

Spicy Parsnip SoupSo, unsurprisingly, I’ve rekindled my love of soup this week. The cold weather is also good for the key ingredient in this particular soup. Parsnips; sown months ago, and slowly growing over the summer and autumn, taste infinitely sweeter once they have experienced Jack Frost’s icy touch. They bring an earthy sweetness to this comforting spicy dish. The addition of the North African nut and spice mix, Dukkah, sprinkled on top adds a crunch to contrast with the velvety soup.

You will need (serves 4)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
4 good sized parsnips (roughly 800g), peeled and chopped
A couple of knobs of butter
700ml boiling water
salt and pepper to season
Dukkah and yoghurt to serve

spicy parsnip soup

Heat the oil in a large pan and saute the onion and garlic until softened, before adding the spices and stirring through. Add the parsnips and the butter, and gently cook for five or so minutes to slightly soften the parsnips. Add the water and bring to the boil. Simmer the parsnips for a further 20 minutes until cooked through, adding a little seasoning if necessary. Allow to cool slightly before whizzing in the food processor and adjusting the consistency of the soup by adding extra water (or cream if you’re feeling particularly indulgent). Warm through in a pan and serve topped with a spoonful of yoghurt and a sprinkling of dukkah.

Homemade Root Vegetable Crisps

Since my son’s diagnosis as coeliac we’ve had to take a look at everything we eat and see how it can fit in with a gluten free diet. With the sun showing a lot more of itself recently, the prospect of a picnic becomes a real one, and one which usually involves a bag of crisps. We don’t eat many crisps, but they kind of have to be involved in a picnic. The trouble is that many crisps seem to not be gluten free, due to different flavourings and being unable to guarantee that no cross-contamination occurs in the factory. As a result, we have a limited source of commercially available crisps (although PomBears are gluten free and were a favourite anyway). This, and the discovery of a rogue beetroot at the allotment when digging last week, led me to the decision to make our own. I can guarantee no cross-contamination; it’s my kitchen.

Vegetable crisps have been around for a while, probably since the mid-19th century when the potato crisp was also popularised, however they have never been a mass market snack. They are however, delicious. They’re also pretty simple to make.

root vegetables

You will need (for the equivalent of a large bag of crisps)
1 beetroot
1 large carrot
1 large parsnip
Oil for frying (I used rape-seed oil, but any mild flavoured oil is good)
Flaked sea salt

First, make sure the vegetables are clean and free of soil on the outside of the skin (they’re best with the skins left on I think). Using a speed peeler, peel thin slices of the vegetables to form the ‘crisps’. You’ll find that the initial peelings are usually a little too small, but as you get further into the vegetable they will become more of a suitable size. Once you’ve got a pile of shaved vegetables; it’s best to remove some of the moisture by placing them on a paper towel and pressing from above with another piece to absorb any liquid. This helps to give you a crisper crisp.

The next stage is to fry the crisps and to do this you need a saucepan of hot oil. I’ve never been a fan of deep frying things, but if you get the oil to a high temperature you don’t tend to get a greasy result; just a crispy one. So, heat some oil to 150ºC and fry the vegetable slices in batches (it’s probably best to leave the beetroot to last as it does give the oil a rosy hue) until lightly golden and crisp, 2 to 5 minutes per batch. When the crisps are crisp, remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon, allowing excess oil to drain away before placing the chips on a paper towel covered baking tray. Salt the hot crisps immediately and start the next batch of vegetables. Once you’ve fried all the crisps, toss them in a bowl and you’re ready to devour these moreish snacks.

Obviously, this recipe is adaptable. You can use lots of different root vegetables. Celeriac works really well, both as a snack, but also a garnish for soup. Parsnip or Jerusalem artichoke crisps on their own would be an excellent accompaniment to a simply roasted guinea fowl, or a steak. But of course, a bag of these makes a great snack for a picnic.

root vegetable crisps

 

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