Hello soup-sters. Her Holiness Mother Souperior has given me, her humble novice, permission to pop a quick blog up on her behalf whilst she is busy soup-bothering. As she always says to me, worship of the Souperior being is for life, 365 days a year, not just for Christmas like the rest of you part time plebs. Of course she is right, although she didn’t need to be quite so insulting about it. Whilst ministering to her flock through the delightful medium of this blog is an important part of her life work, she does need to make some time to receive the divine brilliance. Last time I saw her she was filling a bath with her latest version of spiced chicken gumbo soup. Inspiration moves in mysterious ways. Amen.
Let me take a moment to introduce myself, and explain how we came to be in this position…
Back in the dawns of time, two soup souls met across the reception of a village sports centre whilst buying 5 cookies for £1 (FYI – this was pre-recession, also referred to as ‘the good old days’). A meeting of minds commenced, bonding over shared interests (it goes without saying that they were of course varied and extremely high brow – jokes over the German language ‘Hauser de Kronie’ and playing Snake on the Nokia 5110, to name but a few)
Skip forward over 15 years, and here we are, still with minds meeting, but with one risen to the lofty ranks of Mother Souperior, and one in training to take the holy orders in all things related to liquid meals. Guidance from the Mother has been invaluable in my personal journey, most notably in my recent decision to give myself over wholly to soup when she proclaimed “sister, you must get yourself to a nunnery/new hobby. Going out to the pub doesn’t count” and how right she was. The vices of alcohol and the flesh are but nowt to the empty vessel that is my soul, how better to fill this vessel than with soup!
To this end, I’ve taken up the ladle with gusto. Theologically, I would place myself in the evangelical camp of soup making – proselytizing its virtues, and converting the heathen flocks to its simple healthy goodness, whilst not diminishing the money saving aspects. Lest we forget, that the sheep will not come unto their pen (bowl) of their own accord, there has to be a reason, and therily it was so – we are in a recession don’t you know? However, I would speculate that my cookery skills were more akin to the theory of evolution, than creationism. I’ll evolve a recipe by retaining what I view to be the strongest ingredients and techniques, but not be afraid to discard aspects which I believe to be weak or substandard. To this end, a great deal of hybrid dishes have evolved out of my kitchen. Exhibit A: Spaghetti Bolly-wood – Allahu Akbar.
As my first foray into multi-faceted world that is soup making, I thought it might be sensible to start simple, no point in running before you can walk. To this end I perused a volume that I found amongst my recipe books that I thought might have what I was looking for:
Step 1: Skip straight to the ‘easy’ section and get a general sense of what is needed for a soup – onions, garlic, stock, generic vegetable. Simples.
Quick trip to Portobello Market is undertaken to purchase said ingredients. Due to my holistic and sustainable attitude to life, I decided not to set my heart on a specific soup recipe before going to the market. I would go and judge what was in season (cheap) and then make a soup around it. SOUPER IDEA!
You’ll be glad to hear that this recipe does not involve cucumbers or bananas. That would just be piss weird.
So, ‘in season’/cheap at this moment are parsnips – Portobello availed to me some outrageously large ones. Therefore, I settled on a curried parsnip soup. As some of my closer confidantes might be aware, I am rather partial to all things curry and spice – cf. Spaghetti Bolly-wood above. If in doubt over any recipe, add some cumin and chilli (breakfast is an exception to this, unless you’re making scrambled eggs, because that is totally cool).
So, onto the recipe.
Curried Parsnip Soup
5 parsnips, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves crushed
1 green chilli, chopped and deseeded (yeah right, if you’re a PUSSY)
1 teaspoon of dried coriander
2 teaspoons of dried cumin
1 teaspoon of turmeric
2 pints of chicken stock
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh coriander leaf to garnish
First off I went and got my chop and peeling on. As any good chef will tell you, and LORD knows Mother Souperior will testify to this (Amen) that getting the bulk of the chopping and preparing done at the beginning – creating the raw materials for the soup, if you will, makes for a smooth soup making ride. That is, unless you want a lumpy soup #notjudging.
So here it is, a picture of the parsnips, onions, garlic and chili chopped. It was quite an undertaking. What you can’t see, is me in the background using my wimple to wipe the sweat from my brow.
Next step – wang (yes, that is the technical term) all onions, garlic and chili into a pan with some oil, and fry it up real nice.
Once you’ve started to brown the onions slightly (for those of you who cook curries with Madhur Jaffrey regularly, you’ll be aware of this term, and just how empty of meaning it is). Basically, just cook them a bit, but don’t burn them. Then add the injun spices. Comme ça:
Cook for a minute or so. Then heap in the parsnips, along with the stock, and mix it all up. Yeah stir it, you know this.
Pop a lid on it, get it to a gentle simmer, then take the lid off and cook for 40 minutes. Meanwhile your kitchen takes on the aroma of a curry house (note to self, remove all bedsheets and nuns habits from the washing line if situated close to the kitchen. Turns out cumin is quite a pervading smell, it really gets into fabrics and A LOT of people notice it – who knew?)
Once it’s all cooked up, and the parsington-snips are starting to get all soft, stick it in a blender and whizz the hell out of it. I am aware that Mother Souperior has a hand blender so is able to undertake this task within the original cooking pan. However I am yet to reach her dizzy heights, so have to make do with a stand alone Kenwood – if its good enough for me ma, it’s good enough for me.
Now, the more observant amongst you will have noticed that I mainly blended the parsnip first rather than doing the whole thing, stock and all. Reasoning being that you’ll get a smoother blend if you do the solids first (sounds delightful), then add the stock. A little cooking tip for you all there. You’re welcome.
Next, add in some lemon juice. If you’re posh you can get real lemons, if you’re cheap, quite badly organised, used to ‘making do’, and have very little pride (contrary to the name of this brand) use bottled juice. Like this:
Then add salt and pepper to taste. Whizz again. Then get your salivating taste buds round this culinary EXPLOSION.
*Any visual similarities between this soup and vomit are purely coincidental. It actually tastes like manna from heaven. Amen.
The final burning question on everyone’s lips (no, that isn’t to do with the chilli, its just that you’re really interested in this), is how much soup does this recipe make?
Well, due to the fact that I slightly free-styled the amount of parsnips, I made quite a thick soup. Nowt wrong with that, I hear you cry, especially in this cold weather. But, in real terms (which to me is how many Covent Garden soup containers can you fill? One container holds two portions), this recipe provides a comfortable 5 portions. Enough for a full week of lunches. Scrumptious.
Well, as mentioned above, this is rather a thick soup. Consistency could be likened to a hot slush puppy, rather than your traditional soup. However, the taste was bold, with the sweetness of the parsnip being beautifully offset by the chilli, cumin and coriander. The lemon juice at the end helped to balance the sweetness very well (even if I do say so myself). Due to the fact that there is no cream or milk in this, it is also a low fat option – completely unintentional, but a pleasant outcome. Saying that, the addition of a bit of cream or yoghurt, may well have enhanced the tasting pleasure and taken it to a new high.
Cost: 1 pound sign out of 10 (so cheap it was practically free)
Tastiness: 6 tongues out of 10 (a lot of bold flavours, but a bit of creaminess might have been nice)
Complexity: 2 labrynths out of 10 (could have been cooked by a toddler, although make sure you keep a watchful eye over them with those sharp knives and boiling stock)
Overall: 7 ladles out of 10 (a cheap and hearty soup to save me some coppers at lunchtime)