Once more 2021 keeps walking a very straight, very postcard’esque line through the seasons! Almost perfectly on cue at the beginnibg of October, the tell-tale autumn winds started chasing rain-heavy clouds across the skies above us, leaving just enough breathing room in between the gusts to allow us to hear the chestnuts falling off the trees left right and center. (my condolences to anyone who couldn’t find a better parking spot…) And, of course, allowing just the perfect amount of sunshine through for us to go for extended walks through the wild explosion of color that is the landscape surrounding us these days.
A full-blown autumn hike like the one we went on recently – and of which there will be more to come – always calls for a proper, heartwarming dinner fitting both the sunny yet slightly wet and chilly occasion and the season’s signature goodies at once. This particular hug-in-a-bowl, the first of it’s kind this year, fits this job description perfectly, at least in my book~
This one is easily veggie’d, so I’ve added the vegetarian replacements right next to the not-so-vegetarian ingredients right away.
These amounts will net you 3-4 generous main-dish-sized servings – or 2 for dinner and 2 f smaller ones or lunch the next day~ Oh and just a quick note: reading the ngredient list will take you longer than making the soup~! Well, almost…
The Parsnip & Chestnut Soup with Fresh Figs
800g Parsnips, topped, tailed, peeled and diced into ~1cm cubes
200g Carrots, topped, tailed, peeled and diced into ~1cm cubes
1 Brown Onion, finely diced
1 Tbsp Sunflower Oil
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
200ml Quince or Apple Juice
Opt: 1 generous glug of White Port
700-800ml Venison Stock or a hearty Veggie Stock if you’re going vegetarian with this
2 Bay Leaves
3 Juniperberries, lightly bashed
2 Allspice Berries, lightly bashed
5-10 Peppercorns – I usually just open and slightly tilt my peppermill and whatever comes out goes into the bag.
2 Sprigs of Thyme – from bay to thyme, tie everything up in a disposable teabag – if you don’t have those on hand, carefully taking apart regular teabags works perfectly! Try to pick ones that have 1 long compartment instead of 2 smaller ones. Staple it up nice and tidy and… be careful when stirring…
200g Freshly Roasted Chestnuts, shelled and halved
150g Precooked, vacuum sealed Chestnuts, halved
100g Smoked Panchetta, cubed or 3-4 Tbsp of Butter for a purely vegetarian soup – Careful with the Salt if you’re using panchetta!
Salt, Pepper, Cayenne, Lemon Juice to taste
1 Sprig of Lovage, leaves picked and finely chopped
Alt: a generous pinch of dried Lovage
1 Pinch of Garden Savory
2 Sprigs of Parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped
2 Sprigs of Thyme, leaves picked
½ Bunch of Chives, finely chopped
4 Tbsp Crème Légère
1 Tsp Orange Zest
1 Tsp Honey
1 Splash of Orange Juice
4-8 Figs, quartered
Opt: 4 Slices of Panchetta or Venison Ham
Veggie Opt: Chili- and/or Parmesan-sprinkled oven-roasted beets work wonders towards adding more oomph on top~! Remember to prep this in advance, though…
1) In a pot large enough to accommodate all of the ingredients, render off the bacon on medium heat or (veg) simply melt the butter.
2) Add the sunflower oil and the veggies once the bottom of the pot is glossed ober and allow them to sweat without browning for 5 mins.
3) Once the carrots start to soften up and the onion is on it’s way to “translucent”, deglaze the lot with the juice and stock of your choice – and the optional glug of white port.
4) Turn the heat to high, bring the contents of your pot up to a boil and allow them to bubble away for 2 mins.
5) Turn the heat back down to low and, as soon as the bubbles have calmed down, add the spice bag, the orange zest, honey and a tentative pinch each of salt, pepper, cayenne.
6) Leave this spice & Herb tea of sorts to infuse for 10 mins.
7) Meanwhile, gather up your herbs – lovage, savory, parsley, thyme and chives – add them to a small bowl and lightly toss them until they’re well combined.
8) Grab your figs and use a very sharp knife to quarter or (pretty option~) ¾-quarter them – meaning, apply a cross-cut ¾ down through the fruit so you can wing the quarters outwards without the figs falling apart completely. If you have an oven at your disposal, you could give them a very light dusting of icing sugar, salt and chili flakes and pop them under the grill for 3-4 mins to add a caramel’y note to the whole thing. Either way – once you’re done, set them aside for the time being.
9) Add the chestnuts, both roasted and pre-cooked, to the soup along with the orange juice and give them about 10 more mins to heat through and soften – or until a test bite says the veggies are tender, yummy and ready to be devoured.
10) Have a taste and adjust the seasoning with lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper.
11) Distribute hearty servings into warm bowls, dust each serving with the fresh herb blend, dot them with crème légère and find a convenient spot for the figs (and the optional items you may or may not have picked~)
12) Ready, spoon, go!