On a recent holiday in Iceland I read a food blog where the author was lamenting the sun’s slow decline towards the Winter Solstice.  He rallied his followers with the clarion call “Let’s get through this winter together – one soup at a time!”


ow I know it’s only a week until Christmas and it’s warm enough out there for dinner al fresco but let’s go with our Icelandic neighbours and settle down to something hearty.

I love parsnips.  If my kitchen garden was burning down (…) and I had to save one vegetable I think it would be the parsnips.  Unfortunately we have completely the wrong type of soil to grow them well.  They like slightly acidic, light, sandy soils.  Ours is slightly alkaline, heavy and stony.  It’s often a struggle to get them to germinate let alone grow straight.  When we do have a show-bench specimen we tend to get rather excited.

I have tried starting them off in toilet rolls of compost then transplanting them.  I have dug loads of sharp sand into the soil and I have spent a whole afternoon digging out bucket loads of flint.  I don’t think there is a quick fix.  Over the seasons with crop rotation, the addition of garden compost and the meticulous removal of stones our soil will improve.

This soup is like the essence of a chicken roast dinner.  Don’t be alarmed by the amount of garlic: it is roasted so loses its pungency in exchange for a mellow, nutty flavour.  The salty parmesan is the perfect partner for the parsnips.

You will need

Serves four

  • 500g parsnips
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 50g grated parmesan

IMG_2791 sq soupHeat oven to 180C, gas mark 4. Cut the parsnips into chunks and put in a roasting tray. Slough off the outer papery skin of the garlic, break the bulb up a little but don’t separate all the cloves (they can dry out too quickly if not left clustered together.)

Add the garlic to the roasting tray and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes until the garlic cloves are soft and the parsnips are just turning golden. They will look slightly underdone but you don’t want the vegetables too crispy or caramelised.

Remove from the oven. Squeeze the soft garlic out of the skins into a saucepan. Roughly chop the parsnips and add to the pan with the stock. Bring to the boil then simmer for ten minutes.

Zap in a liquidiser and add the parmesan. Adjust the seasoning and add a little more hot water if it is still too thick.

Serve with crusty bread and if you’ve a mind to, a pint of dark beer. That’s how they’d do it in Iceland!

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