Perhaps it is my British blood, or my British surname, but I refuse to submit to the prejudice against British cuisine. I know some of it is bad — but there are real gems too. Some have become such commonplaces in our contemporary cuisine that we take them for granted. Scones, for example, or rare roast beef with horseradish. Two of my favorite things. If your prejudice against British cooking persists, I strongly encourage you to go get a copy of The Whole Beast, Nose to Tale Eating by Fergus Henderson. That should cure you.
One of my favorite comfort foods at this winter time of year is Cream of Parsnip Soup — I think parsnips are one of the real forgotten jewels of wintertime cooking, and no one should let the season go by without making at least one pot of cream of parsnip soup. I offer my recipe here. I am also working on a recipe for crumpets made from the sourdough I keep alive, and early attempts have been delectable — justifying the lucious allure of their name and memories of high teas in beautiful parlors. Once I have a ‘recipe’ I’ll share it! Meanwhile I’m eating my Parsnip Soup while listening to Jane Austen’s Emma on CD as I putz around my kitchen.
Cream of Parsnip Soup
2 Tbsp butter
2-3 leeks, sliced into rounds and well rinsed
4 medium or 1-2 large parsnips, cut into chunks
1 bouquet garni (an herb bundle tied with string) including a sprig of parsley and a bay leaf, as well as any or all of the following: a sprig of thyme, a sprig of sage, a rosemary stem
Chicken stock (preferably a light-colored, not dark stock) or filtered water to cover, probably a little less than a quart
1 cup half-and-half or whole milk or 3/4 cup cream, créme fraiche, yogurt or buttermilk
Salt and pepper to taste
A dollop of creme fraiche;
and/or finely minced rosemary, thyme, sage, or parsley leaves (or a combination of these herbs);
or a grating of nutmeg;
or a grind of black pepper
1. Heat the butter in a medium-sized soup pot. Add the leeks and sauté until soft.
2. Add the parsnips and sauté for a moment.
3. Add stock or water to cover the vegetables by about 1/2 of an inch. Add the bouquet garni, cover, and bring the pot to a boil.
4. Reduce heat and simmer covered until all is soft.
5. Turn off the heat and remove the bouquet garni.
6. Puree the soup with an immersion blender (or in a blender), adding the milk or other dairy until the soup is the consistency you like, and a big pinch of salt and pepper as you blend. Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings.
Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche (or yogurt) and a sprinkling of herbs, nutmeg, or pepper.