Zest and Herbs

Peppery parsnip soup

Now that the weather has started to turn cold, it’s the time of year for soup.

A hot bowl of vegetable soup is always welcome on a chilly day.  A few earthy and warm spices and an ample portion of crusty bread (always white bread if you ask me, brown doesn’t seem to soak things up in the same way) turn it from a starter to a hearty dinner.  Unusually for me, I followed a recipe.  Well, up to a point anyway.


The inspiration for this soup comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Every Day, adapted based on what I had available rather than any criticisms of the original recipe!  The backbone of the soup remains the same though: parsnip and warm spices. In my eyes, the wintriest of all vegetables, the woody, earthy flavour of the parsnip is completely out of place at any other time of year.  Traditionally, it wouldn’t be picked until after the first frost as the cold weather draws out its full sweetness – this is all simulated with careful refrigeration for year-round supermarket supply.  Parsnip was prized by the Romans who made it a staple root across Europe, until the potato and carrot replaced it, hanging on in Northern Europe where it could weather the cold.  French gourmands once felt the parsnip should be served only to pigs, but Niki Segnit writes that it’s starting to make a comeback.  I’ve yet to find a traditional parsnip recipe from outside the British Isles though.

This soup is bright and peppery, ideal for a chilling winter’s evening.


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • A knob of unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery, finely chopped (omit if using vegetable stock)
  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 25g ginger, peeled and finely chopped (approximately a 4-5cm piece)
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground white pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp chilli powder, such as cayenne pepper
  • 500g parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 750ml hot water (you could use vegetable stock, but shop-bought it can be very salty and sometimes overpowering with celery – a basic vegetable stock is made from onion, celery and carrot and as this soup has two out of three, I think it’s fine to skip it)
  • 250ml milk

Heat the oil and butter in a pan on a medium heat before adding the chopped onion and celery and cook for 10 minutes until softened.  Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes before adding the ground spices and parsnip.  Mix well so all the parsnip is coated in the spices before adding the water.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the parsnips are soft – older parsnips will take longer to cook.  Remove from the heat and allow the soup to cool slightly before blending until smooth.  Taste and season before adding the milk. Before serving, bring the soup gently back up to a simmer and serve with lots of crusty bread and perhaps a little crispy bacon on the top.

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This entry was posted on December 13, 2013 by in Recipes and tagged , , , , , .

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