My introduction to parsnip was at a Sunday Jiggs dinner. It was being cooked along with potatoes, carrots and turnip in a boiling pot of water that had already been christened by a chunk of salt meat. The parsnip – a root that looked like a bleached carrot but was softer and mellower than its cousin with an almost flowery taste – had taken me by surprise. I liked parsnip, just like that: slightly over-cooked in briny water and doused in turkey gravy.
I did not grow up eating parsnip. We don’t get them in India. And somehow parsnip always slips my mind until I have a pot of stew to make. I never think about using this beautifully fragrant root (that is inexpensive and always available) in anything else but the occasional stew.
A few weeks ago, on a birthday supper at Raymonds, an amuse bouche arrived: we were served a tiny cappuccino cup of parsnip soup topped with bacon foam. I am a bacon fan – always have been – but that was perhaps the first time in my life that I wanted more of the parsnip soup over the bacon foam. I had rediscovered parsnip.
This soup is simple and pleasing on a winter’s day. With just five ingredients that simply enhances the flowery sweetness of the humble root vegetable, this is as simple as simple can be. After all, aren’t the simple things in life the most extraordinary?
- Parsnip: 2 cups diced
- Onion: 1/4 cup diced
- White wine: 1/2 cup
- Water: 4 cups
- Butter: 1 Tbsp
- Salt: to taste
- White Truffle oil: 1/2 tsp per serving
- Toasted Pine nuts: a few per serving
- Chili flakes: To taste
- Heat butter in a shallow pan on medium heat. Add onions and sweat them over low heat until they turn almost mushy which can take approx 15 mins. The colour should not change to brown.
- Add the diced parsnips and stir to combine wit the onions. Stir over low heat to blend everything for about 10-15 minutes.
- Add the wine and increase heat to medium.
- Let boil for a few minutes before adding the water.
- Salt to taste and let simmer until parsnips are soft, approx 30 mins.
- Take off heat and let cool slightly before blending.
- Use a hand blender or a mixer to puree the soup.
- Serve warm or room temperature topped with white truffle oil and toasted pine nuts.
- Chili flakes can be used for garnish for some added heat.