Sunday, 7 March 2010

Spiced Roast Parsnip Soup And Caramelized Red Onion And Goats' Cheese Pita Pockets

Last weekend was the first time since the snow began that we made it out into the garden for a poke around in the dirt to see what the winter had left us with.
We really should have already started our spring planting, so we pulled on our wellies, got out the shovels and rakes and had the first proper look at the greenhouse and raised beds in nearly five months!
The snow had come before we had finished pulling the root veg out of the ground and I really thought that whatever was left would be all soggy and ruined by the long cold winter. As it turned out, we have beetroot still growing happily, a few turnips ready to harvest and all THESE Parsnips! I think that there are few vegetables that roast more beautifully so I have kept some of the bigger ones back for next Sunday's dinner but the rest got turned into a huge pot of soup for dinner tonight. I made some little toasted pockets with caramelized red onions and goats cheese to go with it. I've used some North African spices here but you could absolutely do this recipe with curry spices or anything else you fancy.
I recommend listening to and Stanley Turrentine while making this recipe by the way.

Because I grew the parsnips myself and my Dad bought the goats cheese for me, I figured That this whole thing cost about £1 to make but even if you buy the ingredients you'd still be looking at less than £1 per serving.

Spiced, Roast Parsnip Soup with Caramelized Red Onion and Goats' Cheese Pockets
Serves 4, Takes 1 hour (unless you're peeling 40 tiny parsnips...)

500g (1 lb) parsnips, peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
1 litre veg stock*
4 cloves garlic, peeled
3 large, ripe tomatoes
2 tbsp thyme blossom honey (or other runny honey)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
2 tsp caraway seeds
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp crushed red chilli
4 wholewheat pitas, halved
150g goats cheese log, sliced
2 red onions, sliced thinly
Sea salt

Turn your oven on to 180C/ 350F and in a large roasting tin, toss the whole tomatoes, the parsnip chunks and garlic cloves in half of the olive oil, a couple tsp of sea salt, the caraway seeds, the fennel seeds and half of the cumin seeds. Roast in the oven for about half an hour, turning every so often to ensure even colour and tenderness throughout.
Meanwhile, warm a tbsp of olive oil over a low-medium heat and add the thinly sliced onions. Sprinkle the onions with the salt and stir frequently until the onions begin to soften but not brown. Turn the heat down to low and cover, allowing the onions to cook slowly until very soft and sweet. Check periodically to make sure they're not catching on the bottom.
Carefully, open up each half of the pita pockets and put a few thin slices of the goats cheese and a sprinkle of sea salt inside. Spoon a good amount of the caramelized onion into each pocket and lay them on a baking sheet.
When the parsnips are tender, put the pita pockets in the oven and bring the veggie stock almost to a boil and pour into a large bowl. Carefully add all the roasted veg and spices into the stock and use a stick blender to puree everything together until smooth. (You can also do this in batches in a blender.)
In the same frying pan that you cooked the onions in, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over a medium heat and add the remaining cumin seeds, and the chilli and sesame seeds. Fry for 30-45 seconds until fragrant.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle with the spices and oil and bring the pockets out of the oven when slightly brown.

*If you don't already have some, you can get the veggie stock started before you begin the rest of the meal. Here's how:
Quarter one large onion
slice one washed carrot
slice one washed stalk of celery
halve three cloves garlic
put into a large saucepan with:
2 tsp sea salt
2-3 dried slices porcini (cep) mushrooms
1 large piece kombu
6 black peppercorns
2 star anise
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 litres cold water

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for an hour. Voila! you have veggie stock.
You don't NEED to use porcini mushrooms or kombu, but both mushrooms and seaweed are brilliant sources of umami and give a well rounded savouriness to the stock the same as you would get from a chicken or meat stock.
You can use the stems from plain white mushrooms, shitake mushrooms and so on with similar results.
Parsnip Soup on FoodistaParsnip Soup

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