Friday, May 17, 2019

Parsnip Soup with Pine Nut, Currant, and Celery Leaf Relish

It is now spring, so theoretically I should start cooking with fresh peas, artichokes, and asparagus. But before moving on to those, let me share a recipe that I have made a lot this past winter.

Parsnips are a fixture of British Christmas dinners, but in Holland they were almost unknown and referred to as a forgotten vegetable until a couple of years ago.  Prior to the introduction of the potato, they were a staple of the diet here. In fact, they were likely to be the vegetable used instead of the potato in the original hutspot, which legend says was left behind by Spanish soldiers when the dikes were broken and land flooded during the Siege of Leiden in 1574. Hutspot made with potatoes and carrots is still eaten in Leiden on 3 October to celebrate that Dutch victory.

And indeed parsnips seem to have been thoroughly forgotten. I never had it as a child, probably because my Dutch parents were unfamiliar with it, although perhaps it was also forgotten in Canada and not available then.

But it is once again to be found in Dutch supermarkets and not just at the Turkish greengrocers! So there is no excuse for not making this wonderful, unusual, and easy soup.

Parsnip Soup with Pine Nut, Currant, and Celery Leaf Relish

Adapted from: Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables, by Joshua McFadden
Serves 2 for meal or 4 for a first course
The zingy fresh relish really makes this dish. Don't omit it!

1-2 teaspoons olive oil
500-600 grams parsnips, peeled and sliced into 1 cm coins
1 large stalk celery, sliced into 1 cm pieces (reserve the celery leaves, if possible)
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
400 ml water (or enough to cover the vegetables) + some more later
salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup currents
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup celery leaves, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 teaspoons olive oil 

  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the parsnips, celery, onion, and butter, and lightly season with salt and pepper.
  3. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook slowly without browning for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Add water to cover, increase the heat, and simmer until completely tender, about 5-10 minutes.
  5. Puree the soup, adding more hot water until you have loosened it to a consistency that you like (perhaps thinner for a first course soup or thicker for a meal).
  6. Taste and adjust the seasoning. 
While the soup is cooking, make the relish.
  1. Soak the currents in the vinegar for 15 minutes or more.
  2. Lightly toast the pine nuts in a skillet until they start to turn golden.
  3. Combine all the relish ingredients except olive oil, in a bowl.
  4. Taste and adjust the flavours until bright and zingy before adding some olive oil.
Serve each portion of soup with a big spoonful of relish. If you have extra relish, serve it on the side for those who want more.

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