Mid-February, Valentine’s Day to be precise, somewhere in south-western Germany. Just like every year, your’s truly is peering out of the window, briefly considering using the day’s dinner plans as an excuse to throw on The LBD… but no. There’s not much fun in wearing a dress when you need to cover it up in at least 4 more layers of fabric in order to survive a 20-minute-walk without frostbite~!
In our parts “Valentine’s Day” means it’s time for our annual cold snap – just when we were breathing in to say “Seems like the days are getting longer, Spring’s around the corner…” and other optimistic phrases that go with a pair of crossed fingers this time of the year. Another phrase often heard during these days after a short, springy 2-day-tease in the outside-temperature department that carried a hint of freshly turned earth, spring vegetables and berries, is “Enough with the roots and other winter stuff already…”. I admit, I’m about ready for a change in the veggie-seasons as well, but I never waste time shaking an imaginary fist at mother nature – Even if that had any effect on things at all, today would really be the wrong day to get frustrated~! So, like every year, I save the dress for another time, and get right to embracing the cold along with one of Hubby’s favorite winter roots, marrying it to another wintery hero and thereby using this perfect setting to cook up a heart-and-soul warming bowl of soup for Valentine’s Day lunch.
The Roasted Parsnip Soup
These amounts will net you 4 generous hugs-in-a-bowl~
800g Parsnips, peeled, topped, tailed and diced into 1cm cubes
800ml Chicken or Vegetable Stock
100ml Low Fat Cooking Cream
2 Tbsp Crème Légère
1 heaped Tsp freshly grated Horseradish
2 generous pinches of Celery Salt – 1 for the parsnips, one for the Crème Légère addition
1 generous Scrape of Nutmeg
1 generous Scrape of Tonka Bean
Alt: ¼ Vanilla Pod, Seeds only or 4 Drops of Vanilla Extract
Salt, Pepper and Cayenne Pepper to taste
1 Splash of Lemon Juice
¼ Bunch of Parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped to decorate
Opt: If the Parsnip-Apple combo turns out to sweet for you, add a dab of Cider Vinegar to lighten up the deal
Opt: Fried Parsnip Zoodles to decorate
Opt: Pumpernickel to go with the lot
1) Set a pan large enough to hold your roots in one layer onto medium-high heat. If necessary, use 2 pans or simply work in batches – or use a large baking tray and your oven, preheated to 180°C – for the roasting bit.
2) Place the parsnip cubes in a large mixing bowl and add a generous dose each of celery salt, freshly cracked pepper and nutmeg before gently tossing the cubes to distribute this first dose of seasoning evenly.
3) Add the butter to the pan and, once it’s melted, pop in the roots.
4) Allow the cubes to take on some color for 6-8 mins. Shake the pan to flip them over from time to time.
5) Meanwhile pour the stock into a large pot and place it on medium-low heat and bring it up to a low simmer.
6) Once the parsnips worked up a nice tan, transfer them to the stock still sitting on medium-low heat.
7) Leave them to their own devices for 12-15 mins – this is your perfect window of opportunity to take care of the apples~
8) Fish a parsnip out of the stock and have a test-bite – if the cube’s juicy and tender, it’s time for finishing touch-ups.
9) Take the pot off the heat a couple of minutes before moving the proto-soup into the jug of your blender.
10) In the meantime, add the cooking cream, crème légère, lemon juice, celery salt, cayenne pepper, tonka bean/vanilla seeds and horseradish to a small bowl and stir the lot until it’s well combined.
11) Add the rooty stock and the cream mixture to your blender and whizz all of it into a smooth and silky soup.
12) Have a taste and adjust the seasoning of necessary – don’t forget to have a piece of apple with that taste-test for a proper flavor balance.
13) Pour the soup back into its pot once you’re satisfied and set it onto the lowest setting possible to keep it warm until you’re ready to plate up. Make sure it doesn’t get a chance to work up as much as a hint of a simmer – the horseradish, both its aroma and its bite – would poof out instantly.
The Caramellized Apples
1 large Braeburn or Granny Smith Apple, cored and sliced into thin wedges – you really want a tart and crunchy apple for this one to balance out the rooty sweetness of the parsnips
½ Lemon, Juice
1 Tbsp Dark Muscovado
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 generous Pinch of Hot Chilli Flakes
1 Pinch of Fleur de Sel or Vanilla Salt
Opt: Walnuts, lightly toasted and crushed
1) Place the apple slices in a bowl and drizzle them with lemon juice to keep them from browning.
2) Evenly sprinkle the sugar across the bottom of a wide, heavy-based pan set onto medium heat and, once it starts to melt, add the apple slices in one even layer.
3) Allow the apples to acclimatize to their new hot and sugary environment for 1-2 mins, then pick up a pair of kitchen tongs or any other device that keep your fingertips out of harm’s way for the next bit.
4) Tool of your choice in hand, keep turning the slices in the hot sugar until they’re tender – careful with that bite-test~! – and coated with a beautifully golden-brown gloss.
5) In case you’re going with the walnuts, sprinkle the slices with the nutty bits when the sugar coat is starting to thicken and set, otherwise they would just slide off again and hug the bottom of the pan rather then the fruit.
6) Once that’s done, sprinkle the apples with the salt and chilli flakes and get ready to plate up.
Assembling the Dish
1) Ladle the soup into warm bowls and evenly distribute the apple slices.
2) Dot the servings with the chopped parsley and an optional flourish of chilli flakes.
3) If you’re in need of something solid to go with the soup, a wonderfully juicy slice of Pumpernickel or another kind of pitch-black, grainy bread is your perfect pick for the job~!