In Hungary we say ‘it has become my blood’ after a meal or a drink we really enjoyed. It means the food has immediately invigorated us and brought us back to life. Having had a bad cold all week, that it exactly how I felt after a bowl of this Carrot and Parsnip Soup.
I had no plans to make soup but I had too many carrots and parsnips so making soup seemed like a great way to use up the surplus vegetables. And a bowl of nourishing soup just feels so good when you are getting down with something, doesn’t it? So without further ado, I hauled out one of our biggest pots and got to work. After about twenty minutes of peeling and chopping, the prep work was done, and I was ready to begin.
I have recently been thinking about what makes a good soup. That magic formula that turns a pile of vegetables into a bowl of flavourful goodness. After a bit of research and test tasting in my own kitchen, I found that there are a few ingredients that can transform a soup from good to excellent.
Clarified Butter (Ghee)
A few days before, I had made a batch of clarified butter, or ghee, for the first time. Homemade ghee has a sweet, almost vanilla-y scent while being pretty neutral in flavour, and it can also take some heat. It is perfect if you are after some buttery deliciousness without the smell of burning fat. So I sautéed the finely chopped leeks, celery, garlic and ginger in plenty of this melted goodness, bringing out the depth and sweetness of the their flavours and adding some creaminess to the overall texture.
Good stock will really enhance the overall flavour of the soup. I hope one day I will be organised enough to always stock a batch of homemade vegetable or chicken stock in my freezer but for now I often use good quality stock cubes when I am in a hurry.
Sugar and Acid
Most root vegetables are naturally sweet and it is so important to balance them with some vinegar or lemon juice. I use acid sparingly so everything just taste better without quite knowing why. In this soup I used 50/50 ratio of carrots and parsnips to get the right amount of sweetness for my taste and added the juice of half a small lemon.
I love a hint of creaminess in my soup without it being heavy. You can use dairy but I often use coconut milk. When the vegetables are almost ready I add a few spoons of coconut milk, just enough to soften the texture without the explicit coconut flavour.
I usually add some fresh herbs just before blending, to keep their scent and flavour fresh. I finished this soup with a small bunch of lemon verbena leaves. I bought a plant at my local Farmers’ Market and I just love it. It is similar to lemon grass and is a great addition to soups and curries. I also love adding a few crushed leaves to my tea with some ginger, honey, and lemon. Good bye pesky cold!
Toppings can make a huge difference in a soup, and it is also a great way to have a bit of variety when you are eating the same thing two or three times in a row. So after trying this soup with toasted almonds, I served it with garlicky kale crisps and toasted seeds which took this soup to a whole new level. I think next time I will try sautéed mushrooms to give the soup some extra body.
So, the recipe! It will serve about four but feel free to double the amount for extra servings.
- 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 4 parsnips, peeled and chopped
- 1 leek, finely sliced
- 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
- 1 inch of ginger, peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
- 2 tbsp. ghee (feel free to use any other fat if you prefer)
- 2 tbsp. coconut milk
- juice of half a small lemon
- small bunch of lemon verbena leaves (optional)
- Vegetable or chicken stock
- Salt, pepper
- Melt the ghee and sauté the finely chopped leeks, celery, garlic and ginger.
- Add the carrots and parsnips, top up with enough water to cover plus 2 inches. You can always add some more water in the end to get the desired consistency.
- Add the stock cube. If you have liquid stock add it with the water.
- Cook until the vegetables are soft.
- Add the lemon juice, coconut milk, season with salt and pepper to your taste.
- Add some lemon verbena leaves and blend until smooth using a stick blender.
- Serve topped with toasted almonds, seeds, or anything you fancy.
Tip: Double the amount and make a big batch to last a few lunches and dinners!