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.

Time to Prune

Last week I started the process of pruning our apples. We’ve got two established trees, which have been pruned on a fairly regular basis since we inherited the plot. The Beauty of Bath (a fabulous early variety with slightly pink flesh) has always responded well to a prune, but the other tree (an unknown hybridised variety) has generally been the ‘poor cousin’ and if I’m honest has been neglected over the years. So this year I’ve started with this tree; fuelled, if I’m truthful, by the fact that this year (for once) we had a decent crop of lovely sharp and refreshing fruit from it.

pruned apples
I’ve always been a bit hesitant about how and what when it comes to pruning, but found a six point guide to general winter pruning in a Garden Organic publication and have used it this year.

  • Prune out any dead, diseased or damaged wood back to a healthy bud or stem
  • Continue to keep the centre of the bush uncluttered – prune out any weak-growing, very upright or crossing shoots and branches
  • If some of the lead branches are weak growing they can be lightly trimmed back to stimulate more growth
    Remove any worn out and unproductive wood (generally more than three years old) by cutting back to a suitable replacement shoot
  • Remove any congested or overcrowded laterals or shorten to four to six buds to encourage fruiting spurs to develop. Retain about a third of the newly-formed laterals
  • If fruiting spurs become overcrowded, thin them out leaving one or two fruit buds per cluster

It’s a relatively simple process and rather satisfying once complete. Given the wind and rain of the last week or so, I’ve had to leave the second apple tree (and the other fruit trees on the plot) until I can get up the tree without being blown out! Mind you, nature has done a bit of the pruning of dead and weak branches for me.