I have always loved parsnips. As a kid, they were probably my favourite vegetable. Back then, I only ever tasted them roasted, and don’t get me wrong, a good, fresh, frost-tinged parsnip, roasted in butter with a little salt and plenty of pepper – well. It’s guaranteed to bring a smile to my face on a hard day. B shares this rooty passion, and recently we’ve become near addicted to a parsnip, parmesan and thyme bread (a Hugh F-W recipe.) We’ve been making it fairly regularly for a while now, and have adapted the recipe slightly, using less parsnip (we’ve been finding the bread comes out a bit too moist using a larger quantity), less oil (I just don’t think it needs more), and more thyme. We’ve also made it with cheddar instead of parmesan, which was delicious, but you don’t quite get as much of the parsnip flavour that way. Last night, we decided to try adding a few hazelnuts to give a bit of extra protein and texture to our meal. The bread is so good when it’s fresh from the oven, still steaming, but keeps well to eat the next day. Really, it’s closer to a crunchy crusted scone in texture than bread, but for me, that’s no bad thing!
We embraced the parsnip theme last night, and paired the bread with a silky smooth parsnip soup. This soup was simple, but oh-so-gooooooood. We resisted adding too many extra flavours to the soup this time – blue cheese was considered, but we weren’t in the mood (however, if you are, a touch of creamy dolcelatte or tangy gorgonzola would work.) Using the best stock you possibly can is going to hugely help this soup to go from good to amazing – I like to boil up the chicken carcass after a roast and freeze the resulting stock in wait for recipes like this, but I also think Kallo chicken stock cubes are pretty good, or Marigold bouillon for a veggie option. Trust me, this meal may look unassuming, but if you’re a parsnip fan, it hits all the right spots!
For the bread:
1 onion, sliced
175g self raising flour
150g parsnip, grated
50g parmesan, grated
About 2 tbsp. thyme, leaves only
25g hazelnuts, halved (optional)
2 tbsp. milk (you may need a little more)
1/2 tsp. salt
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
Fry the onion in the oil, stirring every so often, until softened and starting to take on some colour, about 5 – 10 minutes. Transfer to a cold plate so that it cools a little.
In a small bowl, gently beat the egg with two tablespoons of milk. Sift the flour with the salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the parsnip, cheese, thyme, onion, and plenty of pepper. Add the egg mixture and combine with a wooden spoon or your hands until the ingredients start to come together. Add a splash of extra milk if you need it. If you haven’t already, then now’s the time to get your hands in there and knead the dough a little. It doesn’t take much, and you’re looking to do the bare minimum amount of kneading that you can get away with. Shape into a round, flatten it out so that it’s not too high, then transfer to a baking tray lined with baking parchment.
Bake for 25-40 minutes, depending on your oven (ours takes about 30 minutes, but check after 25, giving it a knock in the base to see if it sounds hollow inside.)
For the soup:
350g parsnip, chopped into even sized chunks
1 large onion, diced
1 small potato, grated
3-4 cloves garlic, bashed
1 bay leaf
1 small sprig rosemary
A few sprigs thyme
Salt and pepper
A little grating of nutmeg (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, and roast the parsnip until soft inside and well coloured.
Meanwhile, fry the onion in the butter along with the garlic, bay leaf and rosemary. Add the roasted parsnip, thyme and potato, and continue to fry for a couple of minutes. Then, add the stock, bring to the boil, then simmer, covered, for about fifteen minutes. Add the nutmeg and season to taste.
I would happily eat it at this stage, and you may well be inclined to, but if you’d rather go for the smooth, velvety variety of soup, then remove the bay leaf and rosemary stalk and blitz. Divine!