It cannot have escaped anyone’s notice that the past few days have been historically cold in the United States. While the rainy weather tried to wash Britain away, temperatures fell dramatically on this side of the pond. Adding to the many puns used by the newspapers was the news that Hell, a small town in Michigan, froze. Oh what amusement! First we had Snowpocalypse, then a load of other descriptions about the weather, and then Hell froze over. According to my iPhone, the coldest it got here in absolute terms was -15 C, but you have to factor in the wind chill, of course. I read an article in The Globe and Mail before leaving Canada about why wind chills were developed. Apparently it was to make sure that North Americans (yes, we’re including Canadians in this) remembered to wrap up warmly. It seems that it is not enough to say ‘it’s cold and windy out (oot?) there’. Well, call me old-fashioned, but when my phone is telling me it’s -15 C, I don’t need any extra figures to tell me that I need to put on hat, gloves, socks, warm coat, and yes a pair of tights under my trousers because cotton jeans are not enough to keep that cold off my legs. Anyway for those of you who are interested in how wind chill calculations came about, here is the link to the article – Wind Chill Explained.
Even as I look at the sun dancing on the East River, I am finding it hard to think beyond warming foods. I know you’re all probably sick of my raving about soups, and I do sometimes wonder whether I have soup rather than blood coursing in my veins, but soups are an easy and cheap way to warm up, and to use up less than perfect vegetables. Some years ago, the Milk Marketing Board brought out a cookery book called The Dairy Book of Home Cookery. You could order the book if you ordered enough milk from your milkman. Remember milkmen? This book for me is my standard, my go-to for everything. So much so that I bought a second-hand copy from Amazon so that I could have a copy here in New York. The Milk Marketing Board followed up the success of this book with a second one, The Dairy Book of Family Cookery, which came out when Andrew was quite small. I wooed Dad with recipes from this book. When we didn’t have enough money to go out, I would try and impress him with the buttery, creamy recipes developed by the Milk Marketing Board and designed of course to increase sales of dairy-related products. We slowly worked our way through most of the recipes. Some became favourites, some were one-offs (Avocado and Prawn Soup was only made once, I remember). Today’s recipe became a firm favourite of ours, and then of our family’s.
Papa was not a difficult eater as an adult. Legend is that he wouldn’t eat meat as a child, which Nana found worrying. She took him to the doctor who said not to worry, but to mix the gravy with his vegetables so that he still got the goodness of the meat. When Papa went to work on a farm during his university years, he was too embarrassed to tell the farmers that he didn’t like meat and that was the end of that essentially. He was then eating such delicacies as fried Christmas Pudding with bacon on Boxing Day, something I confess I have never felt the need to try. He told me that it was the texture of meat that he had never liked, so it was ironic really that he ended up working with Yorkshire farmers and had to eat slabs of beef at pretty much every dinner he went to! I am sure there were other things, but the vegetable in today’s soup is the only thing I remember him saying that he disliked, so much so that I have to confess to not telling him what the main ingredient was when I made this for them. After he had tasted it, he was surprised to find that he did in fact like the soup, forgave me for tricking him, and then said ‘Huh, all these years and I thought I didn’t like them!’ Honestly, I agree with him that boiled and mashed, these veggies don’t appeal to me either, but roasted or in this soup is a totally different kettle of fish, or pot of veggies. So today’s recipe is Curried Parsnip Soup.
The worst thing about making this, I think, is preparing the parsnips. I try to slice them thinly and the core of a parsnip can be hard to penetrate. The spiciness of the soup depends, of course, on the type of curry powder you use. In recent years, I have tended to use Sharwood’s Madras Curry Powder or Medium Curry Powder, and the quantities given here are for those powders. Obviously if you want it hotter, add more; and milder, add less.
Curried Parsnip Soup – Ingredients
- 500 g / 1 lb parsnips, peeled and sliced
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 2 oz butter / olive oil
- 2 tbsp curry powder
- 1 l / 2 pints (UK), water, chicken or vegetable stock
- small tub of single cream
Melt the butter or heat the oil in a heavy-based pan. Add the onion and cook gently until transparent. Add the curry powder and cook for about five minutes. Add the parsnips and cook for a couple of minutes, until thoroughly mixed in with the onions and coated with the curry powder.
Add the liquid. In recent years, I have tended to use water or vegetable stock because I was trying to add more vegetarian recipes to our meals. Because of the spice, I can’t tell the difference between using chicken or vegetable stock.
Bring to the boil, cover and turn down to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are soft. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Liquidise or blend with hand blender. Add the cream. Season to your taste with salt and pepper. I very rarely add salt, but do it to your taste. Serve hot with paprika sprinkled on top.