March 26, 2012

Curried Parsnip Soup

The first vegetable of the garden season is one that was planted last May; parsnips stay in the ground all winter, sweetening up, and I dig them as soon as the ground thaws, which this year was on March 18th. I love the candied flavor of parsnips when they are simply roasted with some olive oil, but I also love them in this curried soup where their sweet flavor is a nice counterpoint to the Indian spices. The recipe comes from the marvelous Deborah Madison, in her Greens cookbook. When the weather cooled off after the week of unseasonable warmth, I made a big pot of this soup and have been enjoying it for lunch. It's made with a simple stock, a step I often forgo, but in this case I love the flavor of fresh ginger, so I make it with whatever I have on hand; this is usually just carrots and onions.

The Stock
The parings and fibrous inner cores of parsnips
1 1/2 cups leek greens, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks with some leaves, diced
5 whole branches cilantro
1 oz ginger root, peeled and sliced (Madison says this is optional, but for me it's essential)
1/2 teas salt
7 cups cold water

Put everything together in a pot and slowly bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 25 minutes. Strain immediately. There should be 5 to 6 cups.

The Soup
3 to 4 parsnips, about 7 inches long (my only quarrel with Madison's cookbooks is that she rarely mentions amounts by weight. I like a thicker soup so I used 5 roots, 2 thick ones and 3 thinner. Then I forgot to weigh them...sorry)
4 Tbs clarified butter (I didn't have this so used 2 Tbs butter with 2 Tbs vegetable oil)
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/2 inch squares
1 Tbs curry powder
4 Tbs cilantro leaves, chopped
2 to 3 leeks, white parts only (8 oz) chopped. (I use an onion)
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced (I never have celery and don't miss it much)
1 teas salt
5 to 6 cups stock
1 cup light cream

  1. Scrub the parsnips, trim tops and quarter lengthwise. Cut out most of the fibrous core. Use parings and core for the stock. Chop the parsnips roughly into pieces.
  2. Heat the clarified butter in a soup pot and add onion. Cook over medium heat until a rich golden brown.
  3. Stir in the curry powder and half the chopped cilantro and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add parsnips, leek, carrots, celery, salt, and stock. Bring to a boil and cook until vegetables are soft.
  5. Cool soup briefly, then pass through a food mill or puree in a blender or food processor, leaving a little texture with bits of color. 
  6. Return soup to the pot, add the cream, and taste for salt.
  7. Serve soup garnished with remaining chopped cilantro and a few whole leaves. 

I've only eaten this soup hot, but the recipe can also be used for a cold soup. It makes 4 to 6 servings.

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